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Many questions in shooting of Trayvon Martin


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Martin’s parents said their son made the pleas for help that witnesses heard.

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What did Zimmerman say on the 911 call? » On one of Zimmerman’s calls to police that night, he muttered something under his breath that some listeners say sounds like a racial slur. Others, however, say the recording is not clear enough to determine what Zimmerman actually said.

Who is investigating? » Sanford Police have turned over their evidence to local prosecutors for them to decide whether Zimmerman should be charged. The Justice Department and FBI have opened a civil rights investigation. Several members of Congress have called for the case to be investigated as a hate crime.

Why didn’t police arrest Zimmerman? » Zimmerman claims self-defense, and Florida is among 21 states with a "stand your ground law," which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight. The Florida law lets police on the scene decide whether they believe the self-defense claim. In many cases, the officers make an arrest and leave it to the courts to work out whether the deadly force is justified. In this case, however, police have said they are confident they did the right thing by not charging Zimmerman.

Security video shows Zimmerman being led in handcuffs from a police car after he fatally shot Martin, though he was eventually released without being charged. An attorney for the teen’s family said it appears that Zimmerman does not have injuries to his face and head in the video, contrary to claims made by Zimmerman’s supporters.

What could the charges be? » If Zimmerman is charged, he could most likely face second-degree murder or manslaughter charges at the state level. If convicted of the second-degree murder charge, he could potentially face up to life in prison because a gun was used.


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Federal prosecutors could charge Zimmerman with a hate crime if they think there is evidence he was motivated by racial bias. That charge can carry the death penalty in the most severe instances, or up to life in prison.

Federal prosecutors could also accuse Zimmerman of using his official authority to violate Martin’s rights — known as a "color of law" case — but they would have to prove that Zimmerman was acting in some official capacity, similar to a police officer or government official. Zimmerman was a volunteer neighborhood watchman.

When will prosecutors decide whether Zimmerman is charged? » It’s unclear. A spokeswoman for the special prosecutor who has taken over the local investigation said it could be weeks before they decide. Special prosecutor Angela Corey has three options: She could present the case to a grand jury, which would decide whether Zimmerman should face charges; she could charge him without the grand jury’s review; or she could decide not to bring the case before the panel and not charge him.

Norm Wolfinger, the prosecutor who recused himself from the case, had planned to convene a grand jury to review the case April 10.

It is also unclear when the Justice Department will make its decision.

What is George Zimmerman’s racial and ethnic background? » Zimmerman’s father is white, and his mother is Latina.



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