A civil lawsuit against George Zimmerman could be the next step for the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was shot in the chest and killed by Zimmerman during an altercation in a gated community of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.
Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder late Saturday. He had pleaded not guilty and said he was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin.
In a series of interviews Sunday, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said that Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin were considering filing a civil lawsuit, but that no decisions had yet been made.
While he did not say what a potential civil suit would look like, a wrongful death suit is possible. Should that happen, Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara said he would seek immunity for his client.
The NAACP has already appealed to the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue civil rights charges against Zimmerman. The civil rights group alleged that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, and in doing so, violated his civil rights. The Martin family has not yet commented on those calls.
Neither the prosecutors nor the family contended that Martin had been racially profiled by Zimmerman. Only that he had been “profiled.”
Martin’s parents have already settled one wrongful death lawsuit; in April, they reached a settlement with the homeowner’s association of the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the Sanford, Fla., community where Trayvon Martin died. The terms of that settlement have not been disclosed.
“[T]hey are going to certainly look at that as an option. They deeply want a sense of justice. They deeply don’t want their son’s death to be in vain,” Crump said on ABC.
When Crump spoke to msnbc’s Steve Kornacki Sunday morning, he said the family had many decisions ahead of them. “I’m sure we’ll spend some time talking with them and make the appropriate decisions,” he said, “but right now they’re going to church this morning and leaning on a higher authority, because they are very confused about the justice system and how all of this has transpired.”
Crump also told Kornacki that a civil trial could provide better opportunities for an outcome favorable to the Martin family because of the difference in legal standards. In a Florida civil court, Crump said, “it’s a reasonable man’s standard based on the preponderance of the evidence and so that is less than beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“We think that the facts and evidence in this case were clear to us that [Zimmerman] never should have followed Trayvon Martin, never should have profiled him. The family is just heartbroken about it all.”
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.