While the public waits for the Justice Department’s announcement over two separate investigations spurred by the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Department has announced its findings in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.

George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013.  A juror on the case stated, “If you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.”  She admitted to “feeling” as though he was guilty, but that there was a lack of evidence.  Zimmerman claimed self-defense after the 2012 confrontation left Zimmerman bloody and Martin killed.  In the waning days of Attorney General Eric Holder’s tenure, he has resolved a case that has been at the center of the focus on self-defense laws; especially stand your ground laws.  Federal prosecutors have concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prove Zimmerman intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights.

Zimmerman was not a police officer and his neighborhood watch program, spurred by recent break-ins was not affiliated with the police department.  Even so, the Sanford police department drew great ire from the public.  The city of Sanford now says that their police department had been scrutinized by everyone from the press to religious organizations as much as the LAPD in 1991.

Many accused Zimmerman of racial bias, but no racial bias evidence was presented at trial.  The probe focused on whether the killing amounted to a federal civil rights violation, which would have required proof that it was motivated by racial animosity.

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and FBI opened an investigation into the case, noting “experienced federal prosecutors” would determine “whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation” of federal law.   Justice Department officials have said all along it was unlikely for the case to result in federal charges.

In November 2013, Holder said the case against Zimmerman “in substantial part was resolved” with his acquittal.

“This decision is limited strictly to the department’s inability to meet the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statutes; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the shooting,” the Justice Department said.

“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.”

Holder called Martin’s death “unnecessary.”

In Ferguson, the department is conducting two investigations.  The first investigation is a criminal investigation into ex-officer Darren Wilson and whether he used excessive force and intentionally violated Brown’s civil rights.  The second investigation is into the Ferguson PD’s policies and whether they engage in a “pattern or practice” of unlawful and discriminatory policing.

A state grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, declined to indict Wilson in November.


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