On Monday, July 15, the U.S. Justice Department issued a statement confirming that it and two other federal agencies were investigating whether or not to bring federal civil rights claims against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Florida last year.
Zimmerman was found not guilty in a criminal trial which ended on Saturday, July 13.
In addition to the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, are evaluating evidence from the criminal state trial, as well as the evidence gathered in a federal investigation.
“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.”
The criminal trial ended on Saturday, July 12, with a finding by the Sanford, Florida jury that George Zimmerman was not guilty of second degree murder when he shot Trayvon Martin with a 9 mm handgun on February 26, 2012.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has gathered more than 800,000 names on an online petition asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Ben Crump, the lawyer who represented Martin’s divorced parents, called on the Justice department to bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman, whom Crump claimed killed Martin because of his race.
In order for the government to succeed on civil rights charges against Zimmerman, it must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, shot Martin because he was black.
Martin’s family has already received a confidential settlement from the homeowners’ association in the gated community where the shooting took place, the Retreat at Twin Lakes. The family is considering bringing a civil suit against Zimmerman.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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