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Is Obama Doing Enough After The Zimmerman Trial?

Publication Date: 
July 18, 2013
Source: 
CBS News
Author: 
Stephanie Condon

Professor Richard Thompson Ford spoke with Stephanie Condon of CBS News about the tightrope Obama walks with respect to the Zimmerman trial and why this case differs from previous racially-divisive cases.

The death of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent trial of the man who shot him, George Zimmerman, brought back some sore memories for the U.S. attorney general.

"They brought me back to a number of experiences I had as a young man," Attorney General Eric Holder told the NAACP at their annual convention in Orlando Tuesday. "When I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I'm sure I wasn't speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to a catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C."

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"Many people feel President Obama has a special obligation to focus on these issues because he's the first black president," Richard Ford, an expert on civil rights and antidiscrimination law at Stanford Law School, told CBSNews.com. "On the other hand, other people would be suspicious that he was inappropriately biased on the issue. He's walking a tightrope with respect to these issues, and that probably explains some of his reticence."

While comparisons can be made to the way former presidents handled racially-divisive cases, such as the prosecution of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King in the early 1990s, the circumstances of the Zimmerman case are very different. In the Zimmerman case, there were no witnesses, and the verdict may have been justified by Florida laws, Ford points out.