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26 Mar 2014
Lengthy federal role in civil Bridesmaid Dresses: rights cases Washington(Ap)Almost as soon as george zimmerman was pronounced"Not guilty"In a florida courtroom, the cry went up.Government must get"Justice for trayvon,"Insisted protesters angry about the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager trayvon martin.The call will resound again later this month through events marking the 50th anniversary of the march on washington.Attorney general eric holder, the first black man to lead the nation's law enforcement, says the justice department is investigating.Why would the feds consider stepping into a state murder case?The federal government has claimed its power of protecting civil rights against violence as far back as the reconstruction era.But then court decisions, the end of reconstruction and the rise of jim crow laws essentially"Defanged"The federal government of its power to police civil rights when state and local governments would not, said darrell miller, a duke university law professor.It wasn't until the 1960s civil rights movement exemplified by the historic aug.28, 1963, march that new laws began strengthening the federal role.Now, the justice department is expected to pursue civil rights prosecutions.But in many cases that inflame racial passions, federal prosecutors don't find the evidence needed to support civil rights charges.A look at some cases through history:The civil rights eraas the burgeoning civil rights movement gathered force in the 1960s, demonstrators were brutalized and killed, sometimes at the hands of law officers.Many slayings remain unsolved.The strategy won federal convictions in some racist killings that had jolted the nation:1964 slayings of three young civil rights workers James Chaney, who was black, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were white that would later inspire the movie"Mississippi burning. "Shooting death of lt.Col.Lemuel penn, a black world war ii veteran, by ku klux klan members as he was driving home from army reserve training in georgia in 1964.Fatal shots fired in 1965 into the car of viola gregg liuzzo, a white activist who was helping shuttle black demonstrators between selma and montgomery, ala.These cases helped build public support for strengthening federal law enforcement's hand through a series of civil rights laws.Many states also see results about Bridesmaid dresses adopted their own laws for crimes motivated by bias.And many cases with civil rights overtones were prosecuted under conventional murder and assault statutes.Two of the most notorious state cases the murders of matthew shepard and james byrd jr.Inspired further expansion of federal law, although it took more than a decade. Shepard, a gayCollege student, was abducted and brutally beaten by two men who left him tied to a fence post in a remote field in Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998.Three white men chained byrd, a black man from east texas, by his ankles to the back of a pickup and dragged him to death on a country road in june 1998.Both cases ended with convictions on state murder charges.Outrage over those attacks helped propel congress and president barack obama to strengthen federal hate crime law in 2009 by increasing penalties and removing the requirement that the victim in a federal case be engaged in a specific federally protected activity.The law, named after shepard and byrd, also added crimes committed because of the victim's gender, disability or sexual orientation.Some federal hate crime cases include:A hasidic driver accidentally hit and killed a 7yearold black boy in the crown heights section of brooklyn in august 1991, sparking rioting.A black man, charles price, egged on a crowd of onlookers to"Get the jews. "The angry mob set upon another hasidic jewish man, yankel rosenbaum.He was stabbed by black teenager lemrick nelson.Nelson was acquitted in state court of seconddegree murder charges.The federal government followed with civil rights charges against nelson and price.After their first federal convictions were overturned on appeal, price pleaded guilty and nelson was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.Six shenandoah valley, pa., high school football players headed home from a block party encountered Luis Ramirez, 25, and his girlfriend in July 2008.A fight ensued.Federal officials said the teens yelled racial epithets and"Go back to mexico"As they beat ramirez.He died of head injuries.Brandon piekarsky and derrick donchak were acquitted of most charges in state court.The federal government stepped in, and piekarsky and donchak were convicted under a federal law prohibiting housing discrimination, because they were trying to force latinos out of shenandoah.Donchak also was convicted of conspiring with local police to cover up the crime.Both were sentenced to nine years in prison.


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