George Zimmerman and the Hate Crime statute

What will it mean if President Obama and Attorney General Holder decline to prosecute George Zimmerman?

With regard to Trayvon Martin's death, I have no idea what happened, but various individuals such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters have called the shooting a hate crime. (As a matter of fact, numerous politicians and members of the media have garnered publicity by portraying the tragedy as an example of the racism that pervades America.)

Let us assume that Florida fails to convict the shooter George Zimmerman of a felony. Will that be the end of the matter? Maybe and maybe not.

Federal law (18 USC 249) establishes a hate crime felony for anyone who willfully uses a firearm to cause bodily injury to a person "because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin" of the victim. President Obama and Attorney General Holder are charged with enforcement which is triggered, according to the Department of Justice, when "the verdict or sentence obtained through State charges [leaves] demonstrably unvindicated the federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence" or enforcement "is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice." Furthermore, judging from their past actions and statements, the President and the Attorney General will be open to prosecuting Zimmerman. If they nonetheless decline, Zimmerman's innocence will be evident, and we will also know the names of those who turned a teenager's death into a circus.

Scott Varland is an American lawyer residing in London, England.