Acquitted of second-degree murder by a Florida jury, George Zimmerman still faces federal scrutiny and a possible civil suit that could compel him to do something he avoided at his trial: testify.
The not-guilty verdict Saturday night spells the end of the riveting state criminal case against Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense in the death of Trayvon Martin, but his legal odyssey may be far from over.
“We clearly must move on to the next step in terms of the federal government and the civil courts,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said on MSNBC after the verdict.
The Justice Department began looking into the case less than a month after the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting, and the NAACP launched a MoveOn.org petition Sunday calling for civil rights charges.
In April 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder said there would be a “high bar” to make it a federal case.
“For a federal hate crime we have to prove the highest standard in the law. You know, something that was reckless, that was negligent does not meet that standard. We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with the requisite state of mind,” Holder said then.
On Sunday, the Department of Justice made its first statement on the case since the verdict:
“As the Department first acknowledged last year, we have an open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin,” the statement read. “The Department of Justice’s Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial.
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