Trayvon Martin: DOJ Announces No Charges Against George Zimmerman

Pierre Thomas et al., ABC News, February 24, 2015

While the public waits for a Justice Department announcement over two separate investigations spurred by the summer shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, the department announced today it is closing its investigation into the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Justice Department officials met with Martin’s family today, and were told that they will not be filing charges against George Zimmerman, who shot the 17-year-old after a confrontation in 2012. Thursday marks three years to the day since Martin was killed.

Federal prosecutors concluded there is not sufficient evidence to prove Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights.

“Although the department has determined that this matter cannot be prosecuted federally, it is important to remember that this incident resulted in the tragic loss of a teenager’s life,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division said. “Our decision not to pursue federal charges does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and is based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases.” {snip}

Florida prosecutors tried to convict Zimmerman of state-level murder and manslaughter charges, but in July 2013 a jury acquitted him, saying prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to prove their case.


After Martin was killed, [Eric] Holder sat down his own teenage son to explain that–as unfair as it may be–young black men must often interact with police in a different way than others, he told an NAACP convention in July 2013. It was “a conversation I hoped I’d never have to have,” Holder added.


Many accused Zimmerman of discriminating against Martin–essentially taking action against the teenager and ultimately killing him because Martin was black. Zimmerman is Hispanic.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and FBI opened an investigation into the case, noting “experienced federal prosecutors” would determine “whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation” of federal law. In a statement, the department noted there are “limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction.”

Privately and publicly, Justice Department officials have been telegraphing all along that they were unlikely to file charges against Zimmerman. And in November 2013, Holder said the case against Zimmerman “in substantial part was resolved” with his acquittal months earlier.

Nevertheless, federal officials have insisted their civil-rights probe would be thorough and complete. Several months ago–nearly two years into the Justice Department’s investigation–Holder said federal investigators were still seeking to interview certain witnesses “as a result of some recent developments.”


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