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Feds Close Investigation Of George Zimmerman Without Pressing Charges

George Zimmerman answers questions from a Seminole circuit judge in Sanford, Fla., last November.
Joe Burbank
/
AP
George Zimmerman answers questions from a Seminole circuit judge in Sanford, Fla., last November.

Federal authorities have decided to close an investigation of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin back in 2012.

The killing sparked protests and a national conversation on race. Zimmerman, who is white, was acquitted of murder of the unarmed black teenager by a Florida jury, but federal prosecutors were weighing whether to bring hate crime charges against Zimmerman.

Today, they announced they would not bring any charges against Zimmerman.

"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," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. "We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future."

In a press release, the Justice Department said its investigators had independently reviewed all of the evidence generated in the case by local authorities and conducted 75 witness interviews.

Ultimately, they could not find enough evidence that Zimmerman "willfully" used force against Martin on account of his race or color.

The Justice Department explained that requiring that a prosecutor prove a defendant acted "willfully" is one of the highest standards imposed by law.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division said that the Justice Department's decision not to pursue charges does not "condone the shooting" and is "based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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