Federal investigators are considering filing hate crime charges against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, a local Florida station reported.
Last month, Zimmerman was charged by the state of Florida with second-degree murder for shooting the unarmed teen in February. He faces a maximum of life in prison without parole if convicted on that charge. If charged and convicted of a hate crime, the 28-year-old volunteer watchman could face the death penalty, Orlando station WFTV reported.
FBI investigators, working on behalf of the Justice Department, have been talking to witnesses in the Sanford, Fla., gated community where Zimmerman admitted to fatally shooting the 17-year-old on Feb. 26, the station reported.
Ultimately, a U.S. attorney in the region would decide whether to file the hate crime charges. To get a conviction, federal prosecutors would have to prove that Zimmerman stalked and killed the unarmed teen because he was black.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in April that the Justice Department was investigating the case to find out whether a civil rights crime was committed.
Zimmerman has said he fired in self-defense after the Martin punched him and slammed his head against the ground. The killing sparked nationwide protests over racial profiling as well as Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense policy.
On Monday, Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said he received a trove of evidence from Special Prosecutor Angela Corey.
The evidence included a list of witnesses prosecutors plan to call — 18 Sanford police officers are among them — as well as more than 60 CDs of data, statements to authorities from 911 callers, Zimmerman’s phone records, photos, medical records and video from the 7-Eleven store where Martin bought the Skittles and iced tea he was carrying when he was shot, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Most of the witness’ names were redacted, though five were not: the teen’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin; his brother, Jahvarius Fulton; Zimmerman’s neighbor Frank Taaffe, his friend Joe Oliver and his father, Robert Zimmerman, according to the Sentinel.