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Holder says 'high bar' for civil rights charges in the case of Trayvon Martin

posted 11 Apr 2012, 14:02 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Apr 2012, 14:02 ]

The U.S. attorney general says the Justice Department is doing its own "thorough and parallel" investigation into the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin, and it will bring charges against Zimmerman if it finds that a federal civil rights crime has been committed.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (APRIL 11, 2012) ( POOL) - The U.S. attorney general said Wednesday (April 11) there was a "high bar" to bring federal civil rights charges in the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin as a special prosecutor in Florida was expected to announce state criminal charges this week.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed 17-year-old on Feb. 26, has not been charged with any crime. He has been in hiding since shortly after the shooting in Sanford, Florida, which he said was in self-defense.

In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said federal officials were still investigating the case for evidence pointing to "a potential federal criminal civil rights crime."

"We have a very high barrier that we have to - a high bar that we have to meet in order to bring federal charges in this case and so we are continuing in that regard," Holder said at a news conference.

He said the FBI has been on the scene in Florida conducting forensics "to try to build that case."

The Justice Department would have to determine a crime was intentional and also motivated by race to bring such charges.

Rev. Al Sharpton said the case of Trayvon Martin reflected the "double standard" of the legal system.

"We are not seeking to convict anybody," Sharpton said in remarks before the National Action Network, a civil rights group he founded. "We're seeking to stop them from acquitting someone without a trial. We are not trying to rush to judgment. We are trying to stop the rush to judgment that Mr. Zimmerman apparently made on the night of February 26th."

Trayvon Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton said she felt confident that "justice would be served."

"For the last 44 days, it has been a nightmare and this is coming from a mother's perspective," said Fulton.

"But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that justice will be served," she added.

While the federal probe continued, Angela Corey, the special Florida prosecutor reviewing the shooting has called a news conference for 6 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Wednesday and is expected to announce a criminal charge.

Numerous media reports citing an unnamed law enforcement official said she would announce the filing of an unspecified criminal charge, though Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the reports. Corey declined to discuss her decision in a telephone conversation with Reuters.

Corey said on Monday (April 9) she would not present the case to a grand jury, signaling that she alone would decide whether criminal charges were warranted.

No information on Zimmerman's whereabouts has been made public since he went into hiding soon after the Martin killing.