George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, was acquitted of all charges Saturday after a 16-hour deliberation by the jury. Since the verdict, protests have sprung up all over the country, from Los Angeles to Florida, with demonstrators who say justice was not served during the trial, calling out a “broken justice system.”
Though both the prosecution and Zimmerman’s defense stated the case was not about race, the killing of an unarmed African American teen by the Hispanic-Jewish Zimmerman raised questions of race outside the courtroom. While some believe Zimmerman should have been found guilty of either the second-degree murder or manslaughter charges brought against him, many lawyers and legal analysts say the prosecution simply did not meet the necessary burden of proof and that the justice system worked just as it should have.
As protests continue, civil rights organizations including the NAACP and ACLU are calling on the Department of Justice to consider a federal case against Zimmerman for civil rights violations.
Did the justice system work the way it’s supposed to in this case? Would there have been a different outcome if the case had been tried in a different state? What are the chances of a federal case against Zimmerman? What about a civil case?
Stanley Goldman, Professor of Law and Director of Center for the Study of Law and Genocide at Loyola Law School
Brian T. Dunn, Attorney & Managing Partner in the California office of The Cochran Firm
Lawrence Rosenthal, Professor of Law at Chapman University
Andrew Branca, attorney in Massachusetts who specializes in self defense laws
Jon Greenbaum, Chief Council, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights