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July 25, 2013

Justice Department May Act in Zimmerman Case

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Late Saturday evening, a jury in Florida found George Zimmerman not-guilty of second degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. While Zimmerman may have been acquitted, protesters around the country rallied against the decision and demanded federal intervention.

In February of 2012, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, spotted what he thought was a suspicious looking boy and went to confront him. Before police arrived, Zimmerman had shot dead the unarmed boy, Trayvon Martin, while claiming self-defense.

The Justice Department is now reviewing possible civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Some feel that Zimmerman was motivated by racial profiling.

“I believe this tragedy allows another opportunity for this nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has raised,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “We must not as we have too often in the past let this opportunity pass.”

However, not everyone is unsatisfied with the verdict.

“You see little bits and pieces and you have to speculate and think of the whole trial, just from those little pieces, whereas the jury, they look at the whole trial,” said James Tafelski, a Zimmerman supporter. “They see all the evidence and they have everything to consider.”

As civil rights organizations press for action, Martin’s family is also weighing whether to file a civil suit against Zimmerman.


“This case has elicited strong passions, but we are a nation of laws and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lose their young son,” – President Barack Obama.

Warm-up questions

1. What are three facts you already know about the Zimmerman case?

2. How do you define self-defense, and when would you use it?

3. How do you define civil rights, and can you give an example of one? Do you personally feel that your civil rights are respected? How does the topic of civil rights fit into the Zimmerman case?

Discussion questions

1. What is racial profiling? Give an example? Do you believe there was racial profiling in this situation?

2. Did either George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin need to use self-defense to protect themselves the night they encountered each other? Is there a limit to self-defense, and did either of them cross that limit? Defend your answer.

3. Do you feel that justice was served in the Zimmerman trial? Why or why not?

4. If you felt justice was not served through the trial what can you do to make your voice heard about this case? Give three examples.

— Compiled by Carrie Waltemeyer for NewsHour Extra

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