Because of a lack of evidence, the Department of Justice is unlikely to bring any civil rights charges against former Florida neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman for the death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, three law-enforcement officials have told the Washington Post.
Accusations that Trayvon’s death was racially motivated were what prompted the DOJ to start investigating Zimmerman two years ago, but with insufficient evidence to bring the charges, “it is all but certain the department will close” Zimmerman’s case, according to the Post.
A Justice Department spokeswoman told the Washington Post that the investigation “is active and ongoing.”
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon’s family, says the family has yet to hear any final decision. “Trayvon’s parents continue to hope and pray for justice, and they won’t have any comments until they hear officially from the Justice Department,” he said.
Attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented Zimmerman during his murder trial, in which he was acquitted, told the Post that there was no evidence collected by investigators from some 40 witnesses that would justify a civil rights prosecution.
“I was watching the whole case pretty closely for two years, and they didn’t do anything except take those 40 statements,” O’Mara told the Post, adding that the evidence gathered “suggested that George acted in very nonracist ways. He took a black girl to the prom. His best buddy was a black guy. He mentored two black kids. He sought justice for a black homeless man beaten up by a white cop’s son.
“To those who have seen civil rights investigations and civil rights violations,” he added, “it looked as though the Department of Justice was just placating pressure that existed by suggesting there was an ongoing investigation.”
The difficulty in making a federal hate crime case, the Post notes, arises from a requirement that prosecutors show that Zimmerman pursued Trayvon because the teen was black and that he intentionally shot and killed the teen, also because of his race.
“These are very difficult cases to make,” one law-enforcement official said. “There is a high burden. We have to prove that a person was doing this with the intent of depriving someone of his civil rights.”
Read more at the Washington Post.