The Justice Department announced today that George Zimmerman, the man who murdered Trayvon Martin will not pre prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, 17, while the unarmed African American teenager was walking in Sanford, Fla. The shooting became a national flash-point, sparking a discussion of race relations that continues to reverberate in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and other incidents across the country.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country.”
Holder also said that while there was not enough evidence for a federal hate crime prosecution, Martin’s “premature death necessitates that we continue the dialogue and be unafraid of confronting the issues and tensions his passing brought to the surface.”
Zimmerman, a former volunteer neighborhood watchman who identifies as Hispanic, told police he was fighting for his life and fired at Martin in self-defense. He was acquitted by a Florida jury in July 2013, a decision that prompted demonstrations in cities across the United States.
These demonstrations were, in many ways, a direct precursor to the “Black Lives Matter” protests that erupted after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer, as well as the deaths of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Eric Garner in Staten Island.
Once Zimmerman’s trial concluded, the federal investigation resumed, with authorities interviewing dozens of witnesses, looking at electronic recordings and reviewing crime scene evidence and ballistics reports.
“The federal investigation sought to determine whether the evidence of the events that led to Martin’s death were sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman’s actions violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes,” the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday.
They specifically looked to see if Zimmerman violated a section of the U.S. Code that makes criminal any use of force or threat based on that person’s race. In the end, “insufficient evidence” was found, the department said.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Zimmerman was back in court last month after being charged with domestic aggravated assault. His family members have spoken of a desire to create a reality show based around him, according to a GQ story published last year. That story described a family feeling under siege, moving from hotel to hotel at the height of the public attention and with bags packed ready to flee at any moment.