Feds and the State of Florida Move on the Martin Case

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A welcome development:
The federal and state agencies are intervening in what attorneys call a botched investigation into the killing of the Michael Krop Senior High School student, who was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, a town of 55,000 just north of Orlando. The teen, on suspension from school, was staying at his father's girlfriend's house when he stepped out to 7-Eleven to buy candy and iced tea. 

A neighborhood watch volunteer with a long history of calling in everything from open garage doors to "suspicious characters" called police to say he spotted someone who looked drugged, was walking too slowly in the rain, and appeared to be looking at people's houses. Zimmerman sounded alarmed, because the stranger had his hand in his waistband and had something in his other hand. 

The unarmed teen carried Skittles and Arizona iced tea.
I don't know what this means in terms of the chances of a trial or a conviction. It is almost beside the point. What was so infuriating about this case was not simply that Florida law made it hard to prosecute, or that a federal charge would face such a high standard. It was the slipshod manner in which the Sanford police conducted this investigation,  and the damning message it sent to the citizens it allegedly was sworn to protect. 

Zimmerman also blatantly violated major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual, ABC News has learned. 

The manual, from the National Neighborhood Watch Program, states: "It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles. They should also be cautioned to alert police or deputies when encountering strange activity. Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous...."

According to Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch Program, there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group -- another fact the police were not aware of at the time of the incident.
What now have is, hopefully, an end to Keystone justice and, at the very least, a statement that the authorities will regard the killing of a child with something more than the lax scrutiny generally reserved for a broken tail-light. 

Again, I'll take all of this over a "teachable moment" which would almost certainly make this thing into a fiasco to be batted around by "strategist" from the "right" and the "left." We talked earlier about comforting Martin's parents. I don't want to speak for them, but I imagine they would rather this kind of attention, then the kind that comes from serious issues being reduced to polling questions.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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