New York, NY, March 22, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager in Sanford, Florida, calling the killing a potential hate crime punishable under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the 2009 federal hate crimes law.
The League said a claim that the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, used a racial slur to describe the victim, Trayvon Martin, 17, shortly before the killing took place on Feb. 26 was "deeply troubling."
"Congress enacted the HCPA, in part, to close the gap that had existed in federal authority to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes," said Deborah Lauter, ADL Civil Rights Director. "We are confident the Justice Department will conduct a thorough and independent review of the deeply troubling claims surrounding this case and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation."
For decades, the League has spearheaded efforts to ensure that local, state and federal law enforcement have important tools to combat bias-motivated crime. In 1981, ADL drafted model hate crimes legislation covering all hate crimes. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have since enacted laws based on or similar to the model, which was unanimously found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993.
The League led a broad coalition effort in support of the 2009 enactment of the HCPA - the most important comprehensive and inclusive federal hate crimes enforcement law in 40 years.