Death penalty at stake in Trayvon Martin Case

If George Zimmerman is ever found guilty of second degree murder and a hate crime, he could face the death penalty for the shooting death of 17-year-old high school student Trayvon Martin.

The feds are looking into evidence that Trayvon Martin's death was the result of a hate crime. Hate crimes carry a mandatory prison sentence. For example, Dharun Ravi, the Rutgers student convicted of hate crimes against his gay roommate, faces sentencing for his hate crimes charges next week. If George Zimmerman is convicted of second degree murder and a hate crime in the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman and his attorneys could meet with the death penalty.

Prosecutors released an evidence list against Zimmerman today. Their list includes 50 witnesses from the Sanford police department and another 28 civilian witnesses.

After the 911 phone call Zimmerman made to dispatch was released, media had specialists analyze Zimmerman's every word on tape and shared their findings publicly. Some believe Zimmerman called Martin a "coon" as he waited on the line for with a 911 operator. Zimmerman also said "they always get away with it" during that telephone call with dispatch. Zimmerman, through the years as a neighborhood watchman, accumulated a lengthy record of reporting African American men to 911. But a neighbor and a co-worker have told media that Zimmerman has helped prevent burglaries and that he is a good guy.

Ideally, 911 operators should inform callers when they are racially profiling. When a caller reports a group of black teens walking or one black person walking, dispatch should have a responsibility to tell the caller that the teen isn't worthy of police visit. 911 should respond to crimes in progress, police patrol neighborhoods to prevent criminal behavior and straggle criminal types. The 911 dispatcher on the line with Zimmerman that night told Zimmerman not to follow Martin. But the dispatcher didn't reprimand Zimmerman for reporting a person as suspicious simply because of the person's race.

When Martin family attorneys brought their case forward to media and the public, they reported George Zimmerman's behaviors as racial profiling. They said Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black, dressed in jeans and a hoodie sweat shirt. Racial profiling, in Zimmerman's case, translates to a hate crime. Not all states have hate crimes laws, but by the same token, states can't override a federal hate crime charge or conviction. Minorities are among the protected in hate crimes laws, and under hate crime laws, Trayon Martin was protected.

On the other hand, black people can and are convicted of hate crimes when they assault, attack or kill someone because they are of another race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Incidentally, black on black crime and black on black homicides are not classified as hate crimes. Before hate crime legislation passed, many argued that murder and assault were both hateful acts--and on that basis, they deemed murder needn't be classified as a hate crime based on one's race, religion, sexual preference, etc.

The Million Hoodie Marches organized across the nation didn't help Zimmerman much. The Hoodie Marches highlighted racial injustice all over the world and pointed over a million fingers at George Zimmerman as a racial profiler, stalker, and murderer of the offspring of black women. Because Zimmerman is of Hispanic descent, many view the shooting as another black on black crime. Meanwhile, Zimmerman was kicked out of college. He went into hiding. His father wrote a letter to the newspaper and swore that the facts would prove his son's innocence. Zimmerman's brother got on cable news shows and swore that his brother George shot the 17[-year-old because the 17-year-old attacked him. An African American man who worked briefly with Zimmerman got on cable news shows and declared that George Zimmerman wasn't a racist.

Goerge Zimmerman's father told newspapers that the teen who was on the phone with Martin is a liar. When Martin and Zimmerman encountered each other, cell phone records show Martin was speaking to a 16-year-old. The 16-year-old told him to run when Martin told her he was being followed. Minutes after they disconnected, other phone calls to 911 capture the gun shots that killed Martin.

Not everyone is certain why the state of Florida prosecuting attorney charged Zimmerman with second degree murder. Most believe she has information that the public is unaware of. Today, Zimmerman is living on the run. He stays in hotels under assumed names with his wife and mother-in-law. He also reportedly receives death threats. Zimmerman raised $204,000 for his defense via his website. Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin's mother has been donated eight months of leave by city employees.

Hate crimes, also known as bias motivated crimes, in the United States, occur when a person is targeted because of his or her (perceived) race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, gender identity, social status or political affiliation. Like any other charge, an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Although it was a relief for many that Zimmerman was finally charged for the murder of Trayvon Martin, it was a bit disheartening that hate crime charges weren't filed. Months later, hate crime charges are only now being discussed for Zimmerman.

In the event Zimmerman is not convicted of Martin's murder, but is found guilty with a hate crime, jail time is mandatory.

Prosecutors also have other evidence in the case: Zimmerman's clothes, bullets, gun, a DNA sample, meical records and cell phone datea. The police techs who sealed evidence may also have to testify in the case as well.