George Zimmerman likely won't face civil rights charges for the 2012 shooting of unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, according to anonymous law enforcement officials interviewed by the Washington Post.
Following racial tensions and protests across the country, the Justice Department has been carrying out an investigation into whether Zimmerman followed and shot Martin because of his race, which would violate the teenager's civil rights.
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in a 2013 Florida state trial. If Zimmerman isn't convicted on federal civil rights charges, he will likely end up facing no legal punishment for Martin's death.
People with knowledge of the investigation told the Washington Post that it is nearly certain the federal investigation will be closed without charges. The major reason, the Washington Post's Sari Horwitz reported, is there's a high burden for proving such crimes in court:
The difficulty in bringing charges in the Martin case highlights the challenges for investigators in federal criminal civil rights cases. Under federal law for hate crimes, prosecutors would have to show not just that Zimmerman followed Martin because of his race but also that he shot the youth intentionally because he was African American....
Federal officials have privately said all along that a civil rights case against Zimmerman would be hard to prove.
"These are very difficult cases to make," said one law enforcement official with knowledge of the case. "There is a high burden. We have to prove that a person was doing this with the intent of depriving someone of his civil rights."