Civil rights activist Al Sharpton is lamenting the “impossible bar to reach” in order to prosecute federal hate crimes and is proposing to lower the threshold to try them.
Sharpton made the remarks during an interview with talk radio host Tom Joyner on Wednesday. The MSNBC host was upset with the Justice Department’s announcement that it was dropping its case against George Zimmerman in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
“Unless we change that legislation, we end up where we are in terms of the Trayvon Martin case,” Sharpton told talk radio host Tom Joyner on Wednesday.
“Clearly, I’m disappointed,” he continued.
“Clearly, I’m sure the family is. But clearly the Justice Department cannot go beyond the laws as is written. As we fight these fights and continue to fight the fights from Staten Island to Ferguson, we must change the threshold that you qualify a federal civil rights case for, or we will keep having these moments of activism that end up with cases being dis[missed].”
In order to prove civil rights violations, federal prosecutors must prove that defendants targeted victims on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or nationality.
“Can you prove intent? Can you have more than one witness? Can you prove that race was a factor?” Sharpton asked rhetorically.
“If you lower the threshold where you can say if the results are race-based, if in fact there is enough evidence whether there are witnesses or not. Whatever it’s lowered to it makes it possible for what is a state case which clearly Trayvon was tried in the state could also be a federal civil rights case without an impossible bar to reach.”