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No civil rights charges against Zimmerman in Martin’s death

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George Zimmerman (Photo: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — No civil rights charges will be brought against George Zimmerman in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday, citing what it said was insufficient evidence.

Zimmerman was acquitted of criminal charges in 2013 in the killing of the 17-year-old Martin, who was black.

“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,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a news release. “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

Justice Department prosecutors and officials from the FBI met with Martin’s family on Tuesday to inform them of the decision, the department said.

In a Tuesday afternoon statement, the family thanked the Justice Department for its investigation and “millions of people around the world” who supported them.

“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,” the statement said.

“We remain poised to do everything in our power to help eradicate senseless violence in our communities, because we don’t want any other parent to experience the unexplainable loss we have endured. We will never, ever forget what happened to our son, Trayvon, and will honor his memory by working tirelessly to make the world a better place.”

The case stirred a groundswell of emotion, much of it centered around race. Civil rights leaders, as well as Martin’s relatives, took to the streets contending that the teen — who’d gone out to get a drink and Skittles from a Sanford, Florida, convenience store only to run into Zimmerman on his way back — might still be alive today if not for the color of his skin.

Zimmerman, then a neighborhood watch volunteer, never denied shooting Martin. But he argued that he did so in self-defense.

He wasn’t charged right away — his second-degree murder charge didn’t come down until April 2012. That was a month after the Justice Department and FBI announced that they had opened an investigation.

Still, the bar was always high to charge Zimmerman under federal hate crime laws, as it is for anyone. The FBI defines a hate crime as “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.”

Proving that a person attacked someone is one thing. Proving what was going through their mind when they did it — especially if the other person is dead — is much harder.

Holder acknowledged the law’s high standard in April 2012: “Something that was reckless, that was negligent does not meet that standard,” Holder said. “We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with requisite state of mind.”

CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz reported from Washington, and CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta.

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10 comments

  • dg54321

    A blatant case of “duh”. The trial made it obvious that there was no cause for charges in the first place, and wouldn’t have been, had the Holder-led DOJ not gotten involved, and Sharpton/Jackson not flamed the fires of race baiting. Multiple young black men are killed every day in gang-ridden cesspools like Chicago, yet they never even make the news. Are there lives worth less than Martin’s was? This is just media bias and fanning the flames of racial division. Shame that it works so well to lead the gullible down the path they desire…..

    • "peety"

      this of course is different. A person starts a fight, loses, and then wins the only way he can, with his gun . It’s hard for Americans to watch such a weak loser take a life because he chose to pick a fight he couldn’t win. It’s bad news for gun owners, this just makes many realize that there are a lot of scared weak people out there with guns, looking for an excuse, any excuse to use them

      • dg54321

        Except, for the nth time, he didn’t start the fight. As was detailed at great length in the trial, and even drawn out for people like you to understand, he was walking back to his truck when Martin engaged him and started the fight.

        You can lie, but it’s just going to make you look bad when all the evidence is clearly available to prove you wrong, Petey. Yet again. As if you have credibility left to burn on this topic.

    • dg54321

      Poor Petey. We told you this was the way it was going to go. All the evidence pointed to Zimmerman’s innocence. He may not be the brightest bulb, but if we jailed people for stupidity, we’d need to build a lot more jails. One thing is abundantly clear: he is innocent of the charge of murder.

      • "peety"

        He is a GOP hero, doing what every Republican dreams of.

        Those Pasco cops probably won’t get convicted either. Same ol same ol in blood thirsty America.

        • dg54321

          I’m sorry the truth offends your SJW sensibilities Petey. The easy way to avoid the situation Martin found himself in is to not go around attacking lawful gun owners. Simple, right?