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No Federal Charges in Trayvon Martin Death

(CN) - The Justice Department will not pursue federal charges against George Zimmerman in connection with the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Although Zimmerman did not testify at his trial, he has maintained he acted in self-defense when he shot 17-year-old Martin during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Martin was unarmed when he was killed. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer.

The shooting put a national spotlight on Florida's stand your ground law, which removes the duty of an individual to retreat before using force in self-defense.

Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder charges after a state jury trial in July 2013. In the wake of that decision, Martin's family and many others in the black community had hoped a federal investigation would result in Zimmerman's being held responsible for what they believed was a cold-blooded murder.

The agency's investigation focused on whether the killing was a federal civil rights violation, something that would have required proof that Zimmerman's actions were motivated by racial animosity.

In the end, the department said, it couldn't reach that conclusion.

"This decision is limited strictly to the department's inability to meet the high 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," the Justice Department said in a lengthy release issued Tuesday afternoon.

The agency said in considering whether to press civil rights charges against Zimmerman, investigators "reviewed all of the material and evidence generated by the state of Florida in connection with its investigation and prosecution of Zimmerman, including witness statements, crime scene evidence, cell phone data, ballistics reports, reconstruction analysis, medical and autopsy reports, depositions, and the trial record."

The investigators also independently conducted 75 witness interviews, obtained and reviewed the contents of relevant electronic devices, and retained an independent biomechanical expert to assess Zimmerman's descriptions of the struggle and the shooting.

"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," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. "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."

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