Sanford police Detective Chris Serino told FBI agents that he thought Mr. Zimmerman had a “little hero complex, but not as a racist.” He also told agents that Mr. Zimmerman became suspicious of Trayvon because of what he was wearing, noting that several burglars in the neighborhood had been identified as wearing hoodies.
Just as a federal hate crimes prosecution appears unlikely, Mr. Rosenbaum said, the Martin family would not have grounds for a federal civil rights lawsuit because of the lack of involvement of a state governmental entity. The most likely recourse, he said, would be for the family to file a wrongful-death case in state court in Florida.
“The argument would be that the family did not get a fair opportunity to develop details of the case, and that notwithstanding the lack of proof beyond a reasonable doubt they are entitled to an opportunity to depose and question Mr. Zimmerman, who would not have the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent available to him,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.
Of the parallels between the Zimmerman and the King cases, he said the King case “sent shock waves through Los Angeles and the world.” Although Trayvon’s death is a tragedy that warrants national attention, he said, it nevertheless “reflects the fact that the legal system doesn’t provide legal answers to the problem of racial hatred.”
She noted that a civil lawsuit would give the Martin family an opportunity to question Mr. Zimmerman in court, but the value of the case could be limited by the fact that the defendant might not have enough money to make it worth the time for a lawyer or the family.
“But it certainly is easier with a lower standard of proof, and even if Mr. Zimmerman does not have deep pockets now he could, if, say, he entered into a book deal that increased his wealth,” she said.
On Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said he had concerns about “the tragic, unnecessary shooting death” of the black teenager and vowed that the Justice Department would continue its investigation of the case “consistent with the facts and the law” and work to “alleviate tensions, address community concerns and promote healing.”
“We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion — and also with truth,” he said. “We are resolved, as you are, to combat violence involving or directed at young people, to prevent future tragedies and to deal with the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes that serve as the basis for these too common incidents.”
He made the comments during an appearance at the Washington Convention Center, where Delta Sigma Theta, a predominantly black sorority, was celebrating the 100th anniversary of its 1913 founding by 22 women at Howard University in the District.
On Tuesday, the attorney general will be the featured speaker at the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, Fla., a short drive from the Sanford courthouse where Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty.
The White House said President Obama would have no comment about the Justice Department investigation. It said cases are “brought on the merits, and the merits are evaluated by the professionals at the Department of Justice.”
Trayvon, a 17-year-old high school student, was fatally shot Feb. 26, 2012, by Mr. Zimmerman, the Hispanic former neighborhood watch volunteer for a gated community in Sanford, where the teenager was temporarily staying. Mr. Zimmerman told police that Trayvon attacked him and he shot the teenager in self-defense.
At the time of the initial interview, police said the 28-year-old neighborhood watch coordinator was bleeding from the nose and from two cuts on the back of his head. Photographs back this account.