Trayvon Martin family seeks federal review of Florida prosecutors

The family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin want to know why a state prosecutor apparently refused the request of a local investigator to issue an arrest warrant for George Zimmerman.

Brian Blanco/REUTERS
Mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton, addresses a crowd in Miami Sunday during a rally protesting the shooting death of her son. She is joined by her other son, Javaris Fulton (l.), and attorney Benjamin Crump.

Lawyers for the family of slain teenager Trayvon Martin have requested that the US Justice Department review why a Florida state prosecutor apparently rebuffed a police investigator who wanted to arrest the man who shot Trayvon.

The request Monday is the latest twist in a case that has sparked nationwide outcries about the judicial system.

To many Americans, the failure to arrest George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who became suspicious of Trayvon as the black teenager walked home from buying candy, makes the case an example of racial injustice.

An alleged altercation between the two men on the night of Feb. 26 ended with Mr. Zimmerman pulling the trigger on a handgun he carried and in Trayvon's death. According to news reports, including one by The Miami Herald, police investigators requested an arrest warrant from the state attorney's office, but state prosecutors chose to wait for further review of the case.

According to a CNN news report, the initial police report from the incident listed alleged offenses as "homicide/negligent" and "manslaughter/unnecessary killing to prevent unlawful act."

Separate from the family's planned appeal to the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Florida special prosecutor in Jacksonville are investigating Trayvon's death.

The public got one new nugget of information over the weekend, as audio experts weighed in on a controversy that has lingered since the tragic events of Feb. 26: Whose voice is heard calling for help in a recorded 911 call from the scene?

Trayvon's family, among others, has said it was the 17-year-old calling out. Zimmerman has said he was screaming for help during the struggle, as he sought to defend himself after Trayvon turned on him.

The Orlando Sentinel quoted two audio experts saying it is very unlikely that the voice on the recording is Zimmerman's.

After authorities' initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman, the Trayvon Martin case has blended public comment – from pundits and protesters – with a long wait for investigations to run their course.

On Sunday, civil rights leaders were joined by Trayvon's parents (who are divorced) and thousands of local residents in a Miami protest to call for Zimmerman's arrest.

News reports in recent weeks have agreed on many details in the case.

Zimmerman had organized a neighborhood watch in his community following a series of burglaries. The 28-year-old also had called police frequently to report suspicious behavior. He called police on Feb. 26 to report a black male walking through the rain behind townhouses in the complex.

Trayvon was on his way from a convenience store back to the house where he was staying with his father, his father's girlfriend, and her son.

When Trayvon noticed that he was being followed by someone in a car, he started moving faster. Zimmerman started following Trayvon on foot, against the advice that police gave him over the phone.

What's in dispute is what happened next: Who became confrontational first, and did Trayvon gave Zimmerman cause to feel physically threatened? Before police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman had shot Trayvon as some nearby residents, witnessing the two men scuffling, were calling 911.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Martin family, has said that a pivotal piece of evidence comes from another phone call – one that Trayvon was having with a girlfriend that included the start of the altercation. Mr. Crump said the girl heard Trayvon say, "Oh, he's right behind me again," and "Why are you following me?"

Trayvon's family has said he was not a confrontational child, and that some discipline problems he had at school didn't involve violence.

Zimmerman's account to police, that Trayvon assaulted him, has thrust a fairly recent Florida law called "Stand your ground" into the public spotlight. The law is designed to provide legal shelter for people who use firearms in self-defense. Legal experts are debating whether the law should apply in a case such as this, since Zimmerman for at least part of the time was chasing Trayvon on foot.

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