Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

DOJ will not charge George Zimmerman for death of Trayvon Martin

There wasn't enough evidence, officials say.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Published Feb 24, 2015   Updated May 29, 2021, 11:19 am CDT

The Department of Justice investigation into the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is now closed. No charges will be filed, the Justice Department announced Tuesday afternoon.

“We, as a nation, must take concrete steps to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

The investigation found “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a violation of [civil rights] statutes,” according to a department press release. “Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed. 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.”

Martin, then 17 years old, was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman, the 31-year-old local neighborhood watch coordinator. Martin was unarmed at the time of his death. The case, which rose to prominence due to numerous online awareness campaigns, brought a global spotlight onto Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws, controversial for its permissive allowance of firearm use, as police said the laws prevented them from making any initial arrests.

A year later, Zimmerman was acquitted in state court of second-degree murder after making the case that he shot Martin in self-defense. Federal investigators took over after that, examining whether Zimmerman violated civil rights laws at any point. 

“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,” Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement.  He continued:

“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.”

Federal officials have been careful to make clear that the end of the investigation does not mean an endorsement of Zimmerman’s actions.

“Although the department has determined that this matter cannot be prosecuted federally, it is important to remember that this incident resulted in the tragic loss of a teenager’s life,” Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division told the press. “Our decision not to pursue federal charges does not condone the shooting that resulted in the death of Trayvon Martin and is based solely on the high legal standard applicable to these cases.”

Photo courtesy Seminole County Sheriff’s Office

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*First Published: Feb 24, 2015, 6:35 pm CST