Amid protests and a push from the NAACP, the Justice Department is looking into the prosecution of George Zimmerman on criminal civil rights grounds—but that would be a genuinely tough case to win, the AP explains. Says a former US attorney: "They'd have to show not only that the attack was unjustified, but that Mr. Zimmerman attacked Mr. Martin because of his race and because he was using a public facility, the street." One possibility for the feds would be to argue that because of Martin's race, Zimmerman prevented him from freely walking down a public street, says an ex-federal prosecutor.
The problem there is that the incident occurred in a gated community, which might not technically be considered public. And while the Obama administration has put forward a number of clear-cut hate crimes cases, says a former top Justice Department official, "if you're trying to prove racial motivation, you are usually looking for multiple statements related to why he is engaging in this act of violence. I think it's a difficult case to prove." Still, the department offered a statement yesterday saying federal agents "continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial" and will consider the possibility of prosecution, Fox News reports. Even if the federal case never materializes, Zimmerman could still face a civil lawsuit from Martin's family. (Read more George Zimmerman stories.)