Petition Calling For Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman Reaches A Million Signatures

More than one million people have signed a petition calling for the Justice Department to file a civil rights suit against George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted over the weekend in the 2012 shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.

The petition, launched last weekend by NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, accuses Zimmerman of having violated Martin's "most fundamental of civil rights -- the right to life."

In a statement released on Monday, Jealous said that the jury's "not guilty" verdict had left many unsatisfied and concerned about the implications of Martin's killing having been ruled an act of self-defense.

"Our members, like so many Americans, are outraged at the verdict. Justice has not been served. The facts are clear: a seventeen year old boy is dead because George Zimmerman shot him," Jealous said. "This is a sad day for our country and our justice system. What we saw take place in Florida vividly illustrates the broader dysfunction in our criminal justice system, where people of color still don't have access to equal treatment under the law. It is also highlighted the deadly problem with laws like 'Stand Your Ground,' that have been advanced by the NRA and others, that encourage vigilantes."

A link to the petition at MoveOn showed around 500,000 signatures as of Tuesday, and organizers say the same petition, hosted at the NAACP's website, has been signed by another 500,000 individuals.

On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced that it would examine the case to determine which criminal civil rights charges, if any, could be pursued by federal prosecutors. While President Barack Obama remained silent on the prospect of potential civil charges, Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on the matter on Monday, calling Martin's death the consequence of a "tragic, unnecessary shooting" and vowing to inspect all possible options.

The Associated Press explains what opponents of Zimmerman's acquittal could be looking at in terms of future charges:

Martin's family and supporters maintain that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and decided to follow him, leading to the fatal fight. Supporters of the Justice Department filing civil rights charges say additional evidence could exist in the federal investigation that didn't come up in the state prosecution of Zimmerman, possibly even unknown witnesses.

Despite the pressure, legal experts have been quick to note that it could be extremely difficult to bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

"The Department of Justice couldn’t bring this case unless they believe they could prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because of his race," Rachel Harmon, a law professor at the University of Virginia and a former prosecutor in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, told the Washington Post.



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