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WASHINGTON (CBSMiam/AP) – George Zimmerman will not face federal charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Tuesday that there was not enough evidence to bring federal civil rights charges, which would have required proof that the killing was motivated by racial animosity.
“The death of Trayvon Martin was a devastating tragedy. It shook an entire community, drew the attention of millions across the nation, and sparked a painful but necessary dialogue throughout the country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “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. We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”
The federal investigation was conducted separately from the state of Florida’s investigation of the shooting under local laws.
Federal investigators reviewed all of the material and evidence generated by the state of Florida in connection with its investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman, including witness statements, crime scene evidence, cell phone data, ballistics reports, reconstruction analysis, medical and autopsy reports, depositions, and the trial record. Federal investigators also independently conducted 75 witness interviews and obtained and reviewed the contents of relevant electronic devices.
After a thorough investigation into the facts surrounding the shooting, federal investigators determined that there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation that Zimmerman violated Martin’s civil rights.
After receiving word of the Justice Department’s decision, the Trayvon Martin Foundation released a statement.
“We would like to thank the Federal Government for an extensive and thorough investigation in the civil inquiry against George Zimmerman.”
After thanking those who have offered their support and prayers, the statement went on to address the Justice Department’s decision.
“Although we are disappointed in the Government findings, we remain poised to do everything in our power to make sure that senseless violence is eradicated and no parent or community has to go through what we’ve had to endure on a daily basis.”
The statement concluded with, “No one, regardless of race, religion, or gender should ever have to suffer being victimized because of ignorance, profiling, or bigotry. We must never forget what happened to Trayvon Martin. His tragic death has triggered a resilience in people who refuse to be ignored, mistreated, or disrespected.”
The attorney for Martin’s parents said they were too distraught to talk to reporters on Tuesday.
Attorney Benjamin Crump said the announcement was a bitter pill to swallow for Martin’s parents.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted of second-degree murder in July 2013.
Martin was a student at Michael Krop High School when he was killed in Sanford, in February 2012. Zimmerman said said he shot Martin in self-defense during a confrontation inside a gated community.
The case created a national conversation about race and self-defense gun laws.
Zimmerman, who successfully claimed that he was protecting himself when he shot Martin, identifies himself as Hispanic. Martin was black. The teen’s relatives have accused Zimmerman of starting the fight and racially profiling Martin.
Zimmerman didn’t invoke stand-your-ground, relying instead on a traditional self-defense argument, but the judge included a provision of the law in the jurors’ instructions, allowing them to consider it as a legitimate defense.
Neither was race discussed in front of the jury.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)