The Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it will not file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the Florida man who claimed self-defense in his shooting of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, and instead has closed the case.
“After a thorough and independent investigation into the facts surrounding the shooting, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of these statutes,” Justice said. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed.”
Earlier in the day, ABC cited sources who said there is not enough evidence to show that Zimmerman acted purposefully to deny Martin his civil rights, and Justice confirmed that report early Tuesday afternoon. The decision came after Justice interviewed 75 witnesses and reviewed the contents of cell phones and other devices, as well as police reports.
The investigation examined whether Zimmerman violated federal law by “willfully” acting to cause harm to another based on the victims “actual or perceived race.” Attorney General Eric Holder said that while this threshold could not be met, it was important to investigate the incident that sparked racial unrest in Florida and around the country.
“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,” Holder said. “We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
Martin was killed in 2012 — three years ago on Thursday — and his death became a rallying point for members of Congress who said blacks in America are still routinely killed, after which their killers face no consequences. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him, after Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had been following Martin.
The Justice Department was expected to have trouble bringing federal charges against Zimmerman, especially in light of Zimmerman’s acquittal by a jury in 2013. But the case drew national attention, especially after President Barack Obama weighed in, and Attorney General Eric Holder said his department would investigate whether any federal laws were broken.
Earlier this month, Holder said he was hoping to make final decisions in another investigation into whether there were civil rights violations by police in Ferguson, Missouri, after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed another black teen, Michael Brown. But CNN reported that Justice is not expected to find any violations against Wilson, and will instead suggest changes to the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.