George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in the shooting death of a black Florida teenager, will not face any federal charges, but is it over?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) spoke with the family of Travon Martin, the teenager who was shot, and told them they won’t be filing any charges against Zimmerman. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder later issued a written statement on the case.
“Though a comprehensive investigation found that the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution cannot be met under the circumstances here, this young man’s premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface,” Holder said in his statement on Tuesday. “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
So, what’s next for Zimmerman and Martin’s family?
“Depending on the Florida statute of limitations for wrongful death cases, [Martin’s] surviving next of kin might be able to sue Zimmerman for damages in a civil action,” Michael L. Rich, who operates the Law Office of Michael L. Rich in Massachusetts, commented via email to Epoch Times.
But another attorney said the Zimmerman case is likely done.
“It does close the case essentially unless new evidence comes to light (e.g. someone reliable comes forward and says he confessed to them). They don’t make these announcements if they plan on actively investigating further,” says Michael Helfand, an attorney in Illinois.
Martin’s family issued a statement after the decision, hinting what they might do next.
“Although we are disappointed in these findings, it has steeled our resolve to continue traveling the country with the message of the Trayvon Martin Foundation which is dedicated to protecting our youth and empowering those who demand justice and peace,” Martin’s family stated.
Rich explained what the Department of Justice would need to prove in order to bring federal charges against Zimmerman.
“In order to pursue someone for a hate crime or civil rights violation in the case of a homicide, the U.S. DOJ needs probable cause to believe that the crime was motivated by animus against the deceased because of the deceased’s membership in a protected class. The U.S. Attorney for the district and probably the [Assistant Attorney General] of the Civil Rights Division would need to be convinced that they have sufficient evidence that would permit a jury to find the element racial animus beyond a reasonable doubt,” Rich notes.
Thursday marks the third anniversary of Martin’s death.
Zimmerman, in his trial and elsewhere, said he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Martin during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Martin was unarmed when he was shot.
After Zimmerman was acquitted in July 2013, the decision triggered protests across the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.