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Powell criticizes Florida verdict

The not-guilty verdict that cleared George Zimmerman of Florida teen Trayvon Martin’s killing “will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there,” Gen. Colin Powell said Sunday.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressed doubts over the case’s “staying power,” citing the nation’s erratic approach to race relations.

“These cases come along and they blaze across the midnight sky, and then after a period of time they’re forgotten,” he said.

On the weekend before the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Powell shared his experiences during the civil rights era.

“As a soldier I couldn’t participate in this; I could just watch it,” Powell said, recalling his view of the march returning from the Vietnam War.

“And as I watched it unfold I said, ‘You know, this is a time for America to live up to its creed, and this is the time for us to understand that segregation and Jim Crowism and these awful laws are not just a burden for African-Americans, they are a burden for all Americans.’ ”

When asked to comment on President Barack Obama’s handling of the Zimmerman verdict and race issues, Powell expressed both approval and a desire for more.

Responding to host Bob Schieffer’s suggestion that Obama could do more, Powell said that as president, Obama has a “responsibility to the whole country” and should speak on the issue, “not just because he’s the first black president but because he is the president of the United States.”