UPDATE: 2:00 PM EST
The Justice Department has released a statement on the closing of the investigation into Trayvon Martin’s death.
The Justice Department announced today that the independent federal investigation found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Prosecutors from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, officials from the FBI, and the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service met today with Martin’s family and their representatives to inform them of the findings of the investigation and the decision.
“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. “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.”
Read the release in its entirety here.
Martin’s family will soon be notified of the Justice Department’s findings, ABC reports.
Federal prosecutors concluded there is not sufficient evidence to prove Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., intentionally violated Martin’s civil rights, sources told ABC News.
Zimmerman, who shot the 17-year-old Florida teen in 2012 as he was walking home, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in July 2013 after prosecutors failed to produce enough evidence to prove their case.
One juror -– the only minority on the all-female jury –- later told ABC News that “as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.”
“You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” she said. “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence.”
The case sparked a national conversation about race — Martin’s family believed the teen was racially profiled when he was approached by Zimmerman, but Zimmerman’s defense argued that race did not play a role in his decision to confront the teenager or use deadly force.
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. In a statement, the department noted there are “limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction.”
Privately and publicly, Justice Department officials have been telegraphing all along that they were unlikely to file charges against Zimmerman. And in November 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder said the case against Zimmerman “in substantial part was resolved” with his acquittal months earlier.
Nevertheless, federal officials have insisted their civil-rights probe would be thorough and complete. Several months ago –- nearly two years into the Justice Department’s investigation –- Holder said federal investigators were still seeking to interview certain witnesses “as a result of some recent developments.”
Holder has said then when a decision is announced in the Zimmerman case, it will be accompanied by “as much information” as possible detailing the Justice Department’s findings.
Holder has previously said he hopes to announce the findings of the Zimmerman case, as well as findings from a probe into the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, before he leaves office.
Officials are still conducting an investigation into the latter. We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: ABC | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty