Zimmerman Not Guilty; Legal Battles Continue

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 15, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

George Zimmerman was found not guilty Saturday in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but his legal battles likely aren't over yet.

While some may feel that Martin's parents were denied justice in Zimmerman's acquittal, they may still have recourse by pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. Meantime, the Justice Department is also looking into possible prosecution.

For his part, Zimmerman may also be extracting his pound of flesh from the media for allegedly portraying him as a monster.

Wrongful Death Suit?

The parents of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin can potentially sue George Zimmerman in civil court for the wrongful death of their son, despite the not guilty verdict on Saturday.

Civil courts have a different and lower standard of evidence than criminal courts. That means the Martins can try to prove under this less-strict standard that George Zimmerman was responsible for the death of their son.

But if that happens, "then we will seek and we will get immunity in a civil hearing" under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, Zimmerman's defense lawyer Mark O'Mara told reporters, according to NBC News. Zimmerman, however, would be required to testify at such a hearing.

Zimmerman has maintained that he shot and killed Martin in self-defense. So if a wrongful death suit is filed, and a judge agrees at a pre-trial hearing that "Stand Your Ground" applies, then the lawsuit would be stopped in its tracks.

NBC Defamation Suit

Zimmerman has also filed suit against NBC for defamation after the network's "Today" show aired several heavily edited clips of the notorious 911 call which made him sound "racist."

The strength of Zimmerman's claim lies in the fact that NBC staffers intentionally manipulated the tapes and allegedly created a misleading or false picture of the now-acquitted murder suspect.

Zimmerman's suit had been stayed pending his criminal trial. But now that a verdict has been reached, Zimmerman's lawyers plan to "start in earnest asap" by getting the stay on the civil case lifted, reports The Washington Post.

DOJ Civil Rights Charges?

Meantime, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking into the possibility of charging Zimmerman under federal civil rights laws, but there are some significant roadblocks.

A former federal prosecutor explained that the DOJ would need to not only disprove self-defense, but also that Zimmerman attacked Martin "because of his race," reports The Associated Press.

Federal civil rights prosecutions are difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, experts told the AP. For example, after four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted on state charges in Rodney King's beating in 1991, they were charged in federal court with violating King's civil rights. Two officers were found guilty, and two were again acquitted.

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