Justice Department: Zimmerman Will Not Be Charged With Federal Crimes

department-of-justice-logo1Zimmermanx-inset-communityYesterday, the Justice Department closed the book on the George Zimmerman case with the announcement that it will not file federal civil rights charges. When Attorney General Eric Holder ordered in federal investigators soon after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, some (including myself) questioned the legal basis for entering the case based on the still developing evidence. The Justice Department usually allows state or city prosecutors and police to finish their investigation before entry into a case. Holder was viewed as responding to political pressure in ordering the premature entry in the case. That investigation will now end shortly before Holder leaves his very controversial tenure as Attorney General.

It was clear to some of us that there was no clear basis for civil rights violations given the high standard for such prosecutions. That is not to say that there were not legitimate concerns. There were obvious questions surrounding the shooting. However, the facts were largely in equipoise and would normally have been allowed to progress to a grand jury before an intervention. Despite the claims of some legal commentators, there was never a compelling basis for federal charges, even for highly motivated federal prosecutors. For prior columns, click Here and Here. Holder later followed the same approach with an early intervention into investigating the officer involved in the Fergusan, Missouri shooting. That investigation is equally likely to be closed without charges.

The Justice Department however held the case to the very end of Holder’s tenure despite the clear lack of foundation for federal charges. The Justice Department announced: “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.”

Thursday will be the third anniversary of Martin’s death.

41 thoughts on “Justice Department: Zimmerman Will Not Be Charged With Federal Crimes”

  1. Bitchin Dog…I suspect Zimmerman did not intend to shoot anyone and that he did was part of the assault. You do not need to shoot pre-assault. I’d hope I’m never in that position, as a civilian, and I try hard, to avoid it…some might call that cowardice, I’d call it common sense. Nobody is suggesting (that I know of) Zimmerman was the sharpest knife in the drawer…had he been he’d not have been flat on his back getting pounded. That doesn’t make him “guilty” of anything but self defense. I am equally guilty of that, but more circumspect about how I get involved in situations that can go out of control. No one will take me to the ground, period, except a by dog trained to do so. Doesn’t happen unless I am participating in a Schutzhund, or DPO/WPO, event and am the guy wearing the padded suit or sleeve. You pick your fights carefully…or just don’t pick them.

  2. Why did Zimmerman allow this punk to get him on his back on the ground and beat his head into the concrete? He should have shot him right when the assault began. Someone else needs to sterilize the Trayvon Martin family. Three generations of idiots are enough.

  3. Sandi Hemming…just to be clear my remarks were NOT to advise how Zimmerman should have acted. Like you I was not there. Given the information we have all I am saying is that I would have acted a bit differently from the beginning. I can’t say what I would have done in the end scenario, but I have a pretty good idea and it would have ruined my life just as it done his. That he’s gone on to do other dubious things, only means we are all different and have different mindsets. Mine is to first extend my hand to shake another’s, failing that, fall back and observe. My experience tells me that mere observation will deter a lot. Then…if approached or attacked, your reactions are whatever is necessary to let others survive or yourself survive in the worst case. If the later, your life is a train wreck for that day forward.

  4. This is very nice. After demolishing his life, there are no charges. I see comments about how he should have acted. I wasn’t there, but a man on top of you, verified by witness, beating you, if I had a gun, yes.

    Where was the Latino community? Sharpton must have scared them away. Two policemen quit after charges were filed because they knew the facts,mand wanted no part of it. Good cops.

    I hop Darron Wilson is somewhere safe with his family. What when on in Ferguson for a week was anarchy, allowed by Governor. I want some looters put in jail!

  5. The travesty of justice has been for Holder to hold the threat of federal charges over Zimmerman’s head for THREE YEARS. That in itself is akin to false indictment. As to the Ferguson situation. The citizens there need a Ferguson Militia, fully armed and uniformed and ready for the next Al Sharptongue attack with his arsonists. Where was Holder when the lights went out? Down in the cellar eating sour kraut. Where was Nixon when the mob came in? Hiding in the bushes with his legs bent in. A well regulated is necessary. The right to bear arms should not be infringed. 2nd Amendment.

  6. It’s a political decision. Prosecute – lose NRA voters in 2016 elections. There’s little possible gain for Democrats. Their voters are just as locked-in as Greedy Old Party’s . IOW Nothin’ to gain by prosecuting. Moral outrage? Perhaps. Politically smart to not prosecute? Soiently. Why take unnecessary risks?

  7. Webster, I know Geller’s slant and expected some pushback about it, but I used it here because of specific sources displayed, like police reports, maps, etc. In addition, there is an important clarification there, that there is a Miami school police force that reports to the district, separate from the city’s police force: it turned out there was a burglary in Miami of jewelry matching the description of that in Marin’s backpack.

    Paul, that makes sense to me; I think a lot of the American press was hoping Martin was as innocent a person as that photo of him at age 12 or so told us he could have been.

    It’s a sad story all the way around, for Martin, for his family, for Zimmerman and his family, and for the country being stressed by this and similar stories. (Not to downplay anyone’s losses, just trying to keep it short.)

  8. Webster, I was writing from memory, but now I found the following dated 03/27/2012:

    And this is a July, 2013, blog post about the case, but is well-researched:

    Search arguments trayvon martin backpack jewelry or trayvon martin Miami school district policies could be helpful to you.

    1. Alicia – I remember reading about the Trayvon Martin backstory in the British press but not in the American press.

  9. Aridog, Zimmerman acted completely sensibly. He was brave and/or conscientious enough to be a neighborhood watch volunteer, but he very wisely did NOT seek a confrontation with Martin, which may have been part of what infuriated the teen. The fact that Z got caught off guard doesn’t mean he did anything stupid, and it’s easy to see how he got lulled into a false sense of security — he was on the phone with dispatch mere yards from both his apartment and his vehicle, he was told that an officer was en route, and M ran in a false retreat. All of this caused him to drop his guard, allowing M to approach him in the dark from the rear. I’m sure YOU wouldn’t have been caught in that situation, nor would any of those who blame and mock Z for it, because they’re keyboard guerrillas with the steely nerves and laser-focus of an air traffic controller, the foresight and analytical mind of a chess grandmaster, and the quick reflexes and athletic prowess of a Navy Seal.

  10. Edward – This is part of the reason why ratings for MSNBC are on par with that of the Cartoon Network.

  11. Three years on I hope that the Miami school system’s leaders remember that if their policy had not been leniency for possession of stolen goods, Trayvon Martin might not have been anywhere near George Zimmerman, ever.

    In my opinion, Miami’s educators have a degree of moral responsibility for Martin’s death. And how many other young criminals have they encouraged instead of stopping their crimes and helping the young men avoid death or ruined lives???

  12. Karen S.: “If they want to examine discrimination against blacks, they should focus on cases where it actually occurred.

    A movement based on a lie undermines its premise, wouldn’t you agree? Shouldn’t a movement or demonstration be based on the actual facts, rather than ignorant rhetoric?”

    You’re damn right.

  13. TJustice

    “All the hands up people are going to be in mourning today.”

    Mr. Schulte

    “Intellectually, I’m not sure you understand the concept of movements or demonstrations as exhibited by your comments. Regardless of your feelings on the case, it’s a social movement that used particular phrases to rally around at demonstrations.”

    Riddle me this TJustice, exactly where is the justice in founding a movement or demonstration upon the bearing of false witness and the perpetuation of a false narrative?


    “Sean Hannity and Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton came to blows over Ferguson tonight after Norton told a stunned Hannity that she didn’t read the evidence of the case. Norton said she wants to talk about moving forward and larger issues of race in America, but Hannity didn’t let that slide.

    He repeatedly asked her why she wouldn’t read the evidence, accused her of pushing “a narrative that has been proven false,” and asking her bewilderingly, “The truth isn’t your concern?!”

    Norton shot back, “My interest is not in what happened, my interest is in what should happen!”

    Call me crazy, but I have a problem when members of the United States Congress formerly state on record an accusatory remark about an individual with nothing less than reckless disregard for the truth.



    “Thou shalt not bear false witness” applies to everyone. You don’t get a pass because of some “bigger picture.”

  14. alyssa,

    Cyril Wecht is alone in his opinion.

    Not one of the three forensic pathologists that actually examined the body agrees with West’s conclusions. Furthermore, being the professionals they are, not one of them ventured off into wild speculation about Wilson’s state of mind in their analysis.

  15. TJustice:

    “Intellectually, I’m not sure you understand the concept of movements or demonstrations as exhibited by your comments. Regardless of your feelings on the case, it’s a social movement that used particular phrases to rally around at demonstrations.”

    Actually, it’s a movement that centers around a lie. If it was “hand up” in general, as pertained to a case where that actually happened, then it would be appropriate. Say, if a KKK who infiltrated the police department executed a black guy. But the phrase is directly linked to Ferguson, and was refuted unequivocally.

    If they want to examine discrimination against blacks, they should focus on cases where it actually occurred.

    A movement based on a lie undermines its premise, wouldn’t you agree? Shouldn’t a movement or demonstration be based on the actual facts, rather than ignorant rhetoric?

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