Trayvon Martin, Rodney King, and Double Jeopardy

How often does the Justice Department bring someone to trial who was found not guilty in state court? I though Double Jeopardy forbade such activity. If the Justice Department wanted to bring Zimmerman to trial, why did they wait until a not-guilty verdict had been rendered.

James “Whitey” Bulger and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are going straight to federal court. If they are found not guily in federal court, does the Commonwealth of Massachusetts get a shot?

It’s not the same charges, so it’s not double jeopardy.

Is that also why a person can be tried in criminal and civil court for the same action? (e.g. O.J.)

Yes, but it’s the same crime. I mean, one could have a unlimited list of different “charges”, but the whole idea behind double-jeopardy is that [N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb “ It’s the same Offense’ even if you call it by a different name. Blockburger v. United States notwithstanding

It’s different sovereigns. Murder is ordinarily a matter of state law. Civil rights violations of the type committed by the officers in the Rodney King case are matters of federal law. The same act can constitute multiple crimes against multiple sovereigns.

No. In a criminal action, the charge is brought by the sovereign…in that case, the State of California…seeking to impose punishment for the violation of its law against murdering its citizens.

The civil suit was brought by Ron Goldman’s family, seeking money damages for the wrongful death of their son. Both actions arise out of the same facts, but the parties and the relief sought is different.

It is likely that Zimmerman is also going to face a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of Martin. He may or may not be found liable to Martin’s family.

No, that’s not the reason.

It’s because the Supreme Court, wrongly IMHO, ruled that precluding the federal government from stepping in and prosecuting in such cases, I.E. the infamous case of the three civil rights workers murdered by racist police officers in Mississippi would violate the “Dual sovereignty.”

Yes, people can feel free to tease me about referring to a wikipedia article. I don’t feel like searching for a better source right now.

It may be the same incident but it’s not the same crime. It’s two separate court systems holding two separate trials for two separate crimes - with one person having allegedly performed both crimes at the same time.

No, you’re right. For a great and noble reason, badly needed at the time, SCOTUS wiped its ass with the Bill of Rights.

Yes, legally, according to SCOTUS. Bad decision.

It is in fact the case that the USA has federal statutes for murder and manslaughter (see here), but simply declines to redundantly prosecute cases where a state has done so (The “Petite” policy).

Since Zimmerman was not guilty of murder or manslaughter under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, but would quite likely be guilty of manslaughter under federal law, there is no double jeopardy here. He was tried for homicide in Fla., but was not guilty under their particular SYG statute (Bricker calls it “hinky”). Their statute does not change the federal manslaughter statute, which does not keep burden of proof on the prosecution in a SYG defense, and indeed has no SYG defense.

It would be entirely proper and sane for the feds to prosecute any acquitted SYG defendants from Florida for federal manslaughter.

[del]I don’t see how it’s a civil rights case, though. Zimmerman wasn’t an officer of anything except in his own imagination, was he?[/del] Apparently hate crimes (as opposed to “I love you” crimes) are under “civil rights” law. OK, I get it now.

If we look at the law cited above, note that 18 USC § 1111(b) says:

You’ll note that there are no penalties listed for committing murder outside of “the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”

What exactly is “the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States”?

18 USC § 7 explains:

I’m not sure if Sanford Florida qualifies as a rock containing deposits of guano, but otherwise I don’t see how this law would apply to the Martin/Zimmerman case.

If you’re referring to the Blockburger decision it was dealing with entirely different issues that aren’t relevant to this situation. In that case all of the crimes were federal crimes being tried in a federal court. This case is about state crimes and federal crimes which occurred simultaneously being tried separately in a state and federal trial. Which is pretty much unavoidable - a state court can’t try a federal crime and a federal court can’t try a state crime. Declaring double jeopardy prevented dual trials in situations like this would be saying that criminals are granted immunity from prosecution for some crimes due to them having committed other crimes.

That said, I don’t think the federal government will end up bringing charges against Zimmerman. I don’t think they could build a strong enough case against him on civil rights grounds.

Alley Dweller is correct. If Zimmerman had committed manslaughter on the space shuttle, the Feds could try him under this law. But it only applies to the places and things listed; it’s not a general federal prohibition against manslaughter.

And how could it be? Congress has no authority to legislate against the general crime of manslaughter. There has to be some federal nexus: interstate commerce, federal land, ship on the high seas, etc.

From what I saw of it, the Stand Your Ground law didn’t enter into the case at all. It seemed to be just a basic self-defense case that his lawyers argued, and that the jury found to be true.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 defines it as a federal crime on the basis that the firearm used traveled across state lines when it was sold. Which I’ll grant is one hell of a stretch of the interstate commerce clause.

Sure – but the Hate Crimes Prevention Act is not a general manslaughter (or murder) prohibition. It requires proving that the crime was primarily motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

But your point is well-taken. Federal nexus can be deceptively easier than my comment suggested.

Wow! If they stretched it any tighter, the recoil from the snap would cut people in half!

In general, we really need for the Supreme Court to lay a major smackdown on the use of the Interstate Commerce Clause, and limit it to situations where it actually makes sense.

Some civil rights prosecutions make sense because the accused was never in jeopardy in the first place–the total failure of state court systems to actually prosecute whites for killing blacks was the whole reason we have these laws. Can’t be double jeopardy, really.

In modern days, it can smack of just using legal castles in the sky to try someone twice for the same crime. But my understanding is that using these laws against George Zimmerman types (private actors) is very rare, and they are usually for cases like King where the accused was law enforcement, so the civil rights connection is clearer and the likelihood of them ever being held accountable at the local level basically non-existent.

This is why I wrote that I don’t think the federal government will be able to make a civil rights case against Zimmerman. My personal opinion is that race was a factor in this case but I don’t think it was the main reason.