Zimmerman Protests Spark ‘Renewed Debate’ as DOJ Considers New Charges


Update (July 16 at 11 am): In an anonymous interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Zimmerman Juror B37 said, “I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done.” She said three jurors voted to convict and three to acquit on the first jury room ballot.

Juror B37 has signed a deal with a literary agency to write a book about the Zimmerman trial.

Update (July 15 at 2 pm): The Associated Press is reporting that Attorney General Eric Holder spoke publicly about the George Zimmerman verdict for the first time Monday, during an appearance at the Delta Sigma Theta sorority convention in Washington, DC,. Holder said the killing of Trayvon Martin was a “tragic, unnecessary shooting.”

“Independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised,” Holder said.

In the two days since Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — a teen who Zimmerman followed and shot during a February 26, 2012 scuffle — protests of the verdict have popped up around the country and the U.S. Department of Justice is has begun exploring a new course of legal action.

The DOJ released a statement yesterday announcing that it is continuing an investigation in Martin's death that began before charges were filed last year in Florida.

“As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin,” the DOJ said in its statement.

“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate.”

But successful legal action against Zimmerman seems unlikely, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. Justice Department could file a civil rights charge, but it likely would have to show Zimmerman was motivated by racial hatred when he shot Martin, Paul Callan, an attorney at Callan, Koster, Brady & Brennan LLP in New York told the Journal.

And although attorneys for Martin’s family are considering filing a civil lawsuit against Zimmerman, the Journal reports that such a case would face high hurdles. Zimmerman can seek immunity from civil lawsuits under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law—something his attorney said he planned to do.

Buzzfeed notes that “the federal government's future role in the case could become more clear Tuesday,” when Attorney General Erich Holder is scheduled to appear at the NAACP's annual convention in Orlando.

Future action will likely be weighed against the fact that, as the Miami Herald points out, prosecutors never came close to proving Zimmerman's guilt. Jurors rejected even a “compromise” verdict of manslaughter, acquitting Zimmerman of all criminal charges and deciding he acted in a reasonable way to protect his own life.

Meanwhile, protests against the verdict have popped up around the country, with rallies calling for a federal response and changes to the so-called “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

Tracking protests in Los Angeles, Sanford, FL, Chicago, New York and Atlanta, The New York Times says the Zimmeran verdict “renewed debate about race, crime and how the American justice system handled a racially polarizing killing of a young black man walking in a quiet neighborhood in Florida.”

The Crime Report will be updating this page throughout the week as the story develops.

Comments are closed.