Justice Department places ‘hold’ on Trayvon Martin trial evidence, including George Zimmerman’s gun – which Florida law says must be returned to him
The U.S. Department of Justice, overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder, has ordered the Sanford, Florida police department to keep possession of all the evidence from George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial – including the exonerated neighborhood watch volunteer’s gun.
Sanford police confirmed on Thursday that the DOJ asked the agency not to return any pieces of evidence to their owners. Zimmerman was expected to get his firearm back by month’s end.
The development is a sign that the criminal section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is seriously investigating Zimmerman to determine if federal civil rights charges should be filed.
Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter on Sunday in a Florida courtroom, but civil rights violations provide an exception to the U.S. Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy after a defendant has been found ‘not guilty’ in a state or local jurisdiction.
WESH-TV in Orlando reported Thursday afternoon that police had confirmed the evidence ‘hold,’ meaning that everything related to the trial, from Zimmerman’s gun to the Skittles and iced tea Martin was carrying when the pair’s altercation began, will remain in the hands of law enforcement.
The DOJ did not immediately respond to questions about whether it will take custody of the evidence, or when that might occur.
But Holder himself confirmed on Tuesday during the NAACP’s annual convention that the Justice Department still has an open investigation into Zimmerman’s actions on Feb. 26, 2012.
‘I am concerned about this case,’ Holder told the assembled black civil rights activists, ‘and as we confirmed last spring, the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.’
‘While that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take.’
Comedian and HBO host Bill Maher drew boos from audience members on Tuesday during a taping of The Late Show With David Letterman, by saying that ‘the Florida state law is that he can get his gun back. I say that if he gets a gun, Casey Anthony gets a baby.’
Anthony was acquitted in 2011, also in Florida, of killing her two-year-old daughter in 2008.