Feds start investigation of black teenager's murder

Undated handout photo released by the Martin family public relations representative shows 17-year-old Trayvon Martin (REUTERS/Handout)
Weeks after an unarmed black teenager was gunned down outside of his father’s home in the state of Florida, prosecutors are finally considering bringing the confessed killer to court.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain from the Orlando, Florida area, willingly admitted to law enforcement last month to pulling the trigger on the gun that killed an unarmed teenager. In the weeks since, however, Zimmerman has been spared prosecution thanks to legal loopholes in the state of Florida. All of that could soon change as the killer now looks to prepare for a day in court.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed en route to his father’s apartment after going to the store to buy candy on February 26. Zimmerman was on patrol in a gated community at the time and admitted to opening fire after an altercation erupted between the two. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, to which authorities responded at the time by letting him off the hook. As questions remain unanswered over the bizarre killing, Florida prosecutors now say Zimmerman will stand trial next month and both the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI have officially opened up an investigation into the incident.

Both Martin’s family and attorney have pressed for an investigation ever since the incident, but authorities have been hesitant to move forward since Florida’s “Stand Your Ground" law allows for claims of self-defense to keep even confessed killers out of court. As outrage surmounts, however, Zimmerman could soon be behind bars for the crime.

Zimmerman has attested that the shooting was done in self-defense, but now the attorney for the deceased’s family says that a telephone conversation between Martin and his girlfriend moments before his death suggest otherwise. Lawyer Ben Crump had originally called into question any racial motives behind the killing of an unarmed, black teenager; now he says that Martin’s conversation with his girlfriend might prove those allegations correct.

"This confirms that Trayvon Martin was killed only because he was a young black man who was profiled by Zimmerman," Crump tells Reuters this week.

Days after the killing, Crump told reporters that he believed Martin was stereotyped, skeptical in particular of Zimmerman’s insistence that the child posed a threat at the time of the shooting. “He had a gun, and Trayvon had Skittles," Crump said at the time to the Miami Herald. “We want justice.”

“He was stereotyped for some reason,” Crump added the Associated Press. “Why was Trayvon suspicious? There are hundreds of children in that community.”

Crump now says that the conversation Martin had with his girlfriend movements before his death confirms that the teenager failed to provoke the killer on the night of the incident. "Her call connects the dots to completely destroy what Zimmerman said (to the police) about ‘this kid was up to no good,'" Crump tells Reuters. "This kid was simply trying to walk home and get out of the rain while he talked to his little friend. And that's all he was doing. He was completely innocent."

According to Crump, Martin’s girlfriend heard Martin ask Zimmerman, “Why are you following me?” and "What are you doing here?" shortly before his phone went dead.

Although the details of the phone conversation have not been publicized in full, Crump says the girlfriend was informed of exactly what was happening up until almost the time Martin was killed. They are believed to have been speaking until around 7:16 p.m. on the night of the slaying; cops say they arrived to find the boy dead one minute later.

"She knew details about what went on because he was telling her," Crump tells Reuters.

Although Zimmerman has still been uncharged as of this publication, he is expected to go before a grand jury on April 10. Florida prosecutors made that announcement on Tuesday this week, one day after the FBI and DoJ announced investigations of their own.