For all the furor over the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, Bill McCollum, Florida's former top law enforcement official and ex-congressman, says the jury's acquittal is unlikely to impact Florida's statewide races in 2014.
"A criminal case against someone has to be proven and, as one who has worked in criminal cases for many years, I can say the trial was handled in full accordance with proper legal procedure," McCollum, the former Florida attorney general told Newsmax.
McCollum, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1980-2000 and was on its Judiciary Committee, spoke to Newsmax shortly after President Barack Obama’s comments Friday on the Zimmerman verdict, during which the president said that Martin could have been him "35 years ago."
Obama, McCollum said, "clearly wants to stir up the Democratic base here in Florida, and the overall turnout could be affected by his remarks on the trial. But I can't see the verdict having a significant effect on our state races here more than a year from now."
A just-completed Viewpoint Florida poll seems to bolster McCollum's opinion. Among likely voters statewide, the survey showed that 56 percent felt the not guilty verdict of Zimmerman was justified and only 38 percent felt he should have been found guilty.
The same poll showed that 60 percent felt Zimmerman should not be tried on federal civil-rights charges and 38 percent felt he should be tried federally.
As Attorney General Eric Holder and others have been attacking Florida's "stand your ground" law, which permits deadly force in self-defense, Viewpoint Florida found that 50 percent of Florida voters support the law the way it is, 31 percent feel it needs to be changed or limited, and only 10 percent want it repealed.
Facing a difficult re-election battle in 2014, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has refused to budge in his support of the controversial law. When opponents of "stand your ground" occupied the state capitol last week, Scott met with them and listened to their complaints about alleged racial profiling and discrimination that stems from the law. But when the meeting was over, Scott announced he would not call a special session of the state legislature to amend the law.
The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Scott trailing former governor and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist by a margin of 47 percent to 37 percent statewide. This represents an improvement, however, for the embattled Republican. In March, Quinnipiac showed Scott trailing Crist by 16 percentage points.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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