The Justice Department’s Civil Rights division and the FBI have opened a civil rights investigation into the Trayvon Martin case, said The New York Times (3/20/2012). Their investigation will be one independent of local Florida authorities. Martin, a black teenager, was shot and killed outside his stepmother’s home in Florida by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who is white and Hispanic.
“What will be important in determining the outcome of this case is if there is evidence that this was a hate crime,” said New York civil rights violation lawyer David Perecman, founder of The Perecman Firm, one of New York’s civil rights violation law firms.
The Justice Department announcement comes as international media coverage of the case continues to grow. No charges have been filed. The case is also being referred to a Florida grand jury, said The New York Times. Hate crimes are attacks motivated by bias against someone’s race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Like many states, New York has laws that provide for enhanced penalties if the motivation for the crime can be proved to have been hate or bias, explained New York civil rights violation lawyer Perecman.
New York’s hate crime statute covers race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability and sexual orientation. “Hate crimes are some of the most despicable acts committed. Nobody should be harassed, bullied or targeted because of personal qualities such as race, religion, or sexual orientation,” said Perecman, a New York civil rights violation lawyer for over 30 years.
“Hate crimes hurt entire communities, as well as the victim.” A victim of a hate crime should call a New York civil rights violation lawyer, especially if he or she believes the crime was committed or escalated because of prejudice or bias.