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Opinion: Trayvon Martin shooting wasn't a case of racial profiling
George Zimmerman walks into court for a recent appearance.
May 30th, 2012
12:39 PM ET

Opinion: Trayvon Martin shooting wasn't a case of racial profiling

Editor's note: Mark NeJame is a CNN legal analyst and contributor and has practiced law, mainly as a criminal defense attorney, for more than 30 years. He is the founder and senior partner of NeJame, LaFay, Jancha, Ahmed, Barker and Joshi, P.A., in Orlando. Follow him on Twitter: @marknejame

By Mark NeJame, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - Ever since the Trayvon Martin case came to national attention, George Zimmerman has been described by some as having racially profiled the 17-year-old before he was shot and killed.

There's a difference of opinion about whether racial profiling was actually involved, but a key question that is often overlooked is the distinction between profiling by a citizen and profiling by a member of law enforcement. That distinction is likely to be crucial in determining the direction the case may go.

As a criminal defense attorney for more than 30 years, I can't even begin to recall how many cases my firm has handled that involved challenging law enforcement officers for the practice of stopping or searching an individual based on what is typically referred to as racial profiling.

Essentially, racial profiling occurs when race, national origin or ethnicity is the primary or sole consideration used by an officer of the law when intervening in a law enforcement capacity. Racial profiling is a form of discrimination that is not only despicable, but also is an illegal and improper basis for any police officer to stop, search, arrest or investigate another person.

The issue of racial profiling has been bandied about often in discussions of Martin's shooting. As with many things concerning the case, much misinformation has circulated.

Zimmerman was not a law enforcement agent. He was a civilian, operating under different legal standards than those applied to the police. Merely because he was a neighborhood watch captain does not attach law enforcement status to him.

Read Mark NeJame's full commentary

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. wisdom

    Dude getting Captial murder over some raggedy ass nut guzzlin hoe. He shouldve killed her and not this dude. N if u got ur baby in ur bed while u hoing...u should expect the baby to get squirted by something. Someone take deez kids to church...even the bible warns about hoes ruining mens lives

    June 19, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. raceisamyth

    Black slave vs. White slave on youtube is something black americans should watch. Now put that stupid mic down and pick up a guitar or banjo...after all africans invented it.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. raceisamyth

    I just happen to be a black zimmerman supporter. I know george loves his black grandmother. Did you fools know about her? Or did you even ask?

    May 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. raceisamyth

    CB...i bet you had no clue europeans migrated to america via the north pole route during the last ice age while mongols came over the land bridge via alaska. Are not smart enough to notice how completely different and varied in appearance the first peoples are? O and so you know...call us American Indian or our tribe names. We are not native americans. I am Cherokee Blackfoot Irish and African.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • raceisamyth

      You want to know who your real enimies are? They are the persian empire. they invented everything you talk against. And black peoples biggest enemy....black muslims. When black africans go to that religion...they go right back into persian slavery. You do understand thats euros bought the concept of slavery from persia

      May 31, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NamDebra

    Act defensivley? Trayvon was home free after Zimmerman lost site of him & was on his way back to his car. Trayvon chose to double back & confront Zimmerman & things turned ugly, then tragic(i.e.confrontation, beating, & resulting gun discharge). Trayvon confronting Zimmerman is not the typical reaction a scared/frightened teenager has to being followed, most run home or call the police from their cell phones.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jennie

    *Wonders how much money Zimmerman is paying Mark Nejame*. This article is absolutely frivulous and irresponsible. But so was CNNs audio interpretation of the racial slur that everyone heard him utter. Should I be surprised?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Seth

    It's pretty clear Zimmerman was concerned because of Trayon's behavior not the color of his skin. There had been multiple break-ins in this neighborhood recently which puts a community on edge and more watchful. Dragging race into this is some people trying to make it something it is not. Like putting an elevator in an out house, it just don't fit.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • h

      What behvavior? His perception that some one was acting strangely. Heis perception was waht led him to behave in an irrational way and to creat a nightmare out of nothing.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The REAL Truth...

    The article is splitting hairs over the definition of racial profiling as it applies to law enforcement versus non-law enforcement. Racial profiling is racial profiling, regardless of source. To be sure, it has more public visibility in law enforcement than elsewhere, but it happens in all areas... illegal or not. Job interviews, applications, neighborhood watch groups, etc.

    IF (as alleged) Zimmerman pursued Martin because he was a black teen – even after being instructed not to do so – IMHO that is racial profiling. If I'm a young black kid walking home thru a neighborhood and I find some "Hispanic looking dude" (note the racial stereotyping in that phrase) following me, I might have cause for concern and possibly react defensively. Hopefully, the truth will come out in court and we can put this travesty behind us.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. YB

    Is this the whole article? This says nothing.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |