Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed today that the Justice Department has already begun an investigation of possible civil rights violations by George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. This investigation, however, is not likely to bear fruit. Since the incident, little new evidence has come to light, and without new evidence to justify an appeal, there is a good chance this investigation is simply a gesture.
Two days ago, Zimmerman was found not guilty for the murder or manslaughter of Martin. The verdict comes after a year of high-profile coverage of the shooting with much of the conversation concerning race. When Zimmerman was found not guilty, the Internet erupted in passionate reactions of relief and rage. Unlike the riots in 1992 because of the Rodney King verdict, the outrage to this case has been largely confined to social media and news sites.
In the wake of protests and outrage, the Justice Department’s announcement to seek an appeal comes without new evidence. If the Justice Department can find new evidence proving Zimmerman killed Martin because of racial bias, they might charge him with hate crimes in federal court under Civil Laws despite him being acquitted on the state level.
However, without providing new evidence or the basis for investigation, there is a strong possibility the federal government’s investigation is nominal and meant to appease public outrage.
President Barack Obama has not explicitly stated his views on whether Zimmerman was guilty of either manslaughter or murder. He has, however, hinted at his opinions about the issue of race by stating, “If I had a son, he’d look like Travyon.” Obama has also used the death of Martin to promote legislation on gun control.