The Justice System’s Role In The Death Of Trayvon Martin

The NAACP’s appeal for federal review of the Florida verdict in the murder case against George Zimmerman reprises the calls for federal statutory remedies for racial homicides, made first in the wake of the Civil War, then in the following decades to control lynching, and finally after the gay-hating murder of Matthew Shepard and the lynching of James Byrd.

As these laws and reform efforts signal, the national government should bear primary responsibility for punishing violent suppression of constitutional rights — including the rights to life and due process. But unfortunately there is no neat fit between existing law and the known facts in the Zimmerman case.