George Zimmerman Could Face Civil Suits, Death Threats, Federal Prosecution

PHOTO: George Zimmerman enters the courtroom for his trial in Sanford, Fla., July 13, 2013.
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George Zimmerman left a Florida courtroom Saturday night a free man after being acquitted of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, but his troubles are likely far from over.

Although jail time is no longer a threat for Zimmerman, his lawyer says he fears for his life and may have to remain in hiding. He also potentially faces civil suits, which could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and cause possible financial ruin.

In criminal cases, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, and in most jurisdictions the jury's decision has to be unanimous. But in a civil case, the standard of proof is lower: The plaintiff's burden is, in essence, "more likely than not," rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Slideshow: The George Zimmerman Case in Pictures

According to Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, the parents of the slain teenager are considering additional legal options, including whether to sue Zimmerman in civil court.

"They are certainly going to look at that as an option," Crump said on ABC's "This Week." "They deeply want a sense of justice. They deeply don't want their son's death to be in vain."

The Orlando Sentinel reported in April that Martin's parents had settled a wrongful-death claim against the homeowners association of the Sanford, Fla., subdivision where their son was killed.

Zimmerman, 29, was accused of second degree murder for shooting Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012 inside the gated community. While he admitted to shooting the unarmed teenager, Zimmerman maintained the teen attacked him and he acted in self defense.

Related: Timeline of Events, From Trayvon Martin's Death Through Start of George Zimmerman's Trial

The case quickly developed racial overtones when Sanford law enforcement declined to arrest Zimmerman. Zimmerman is white and Hispanic and Martin was black. Zimmerman was arrested nearly two months after the incident when the state appointed Angela Corey as a special prosecutor and she brought second degree murder charges against him.

A jury made up of six women found Zimmerman not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter charges Saturday, after deliberating for more than 16 hours over two days.

"As you look at this case, you have what took place in the court, which had to deal with the law, but the court of public opinion is where this thing is exploded," ABC News Chief Investigative correspondent Pierre Thomas said on ABC's "This Week." "The bar is extremely high, but the Justice Department will be under intense pressure by the civil rights community to do something."

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) released a statement shortly after the verdict was announced, calling on the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to take action after Zimmerman was found not guilty by a Florida jury.

"Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family," said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP. "We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in the United States."

An NAACP petition calling for a federal prosecution of Zimmerman has collected more than 350,000 signatures -- some 225,000 on the NAACP site and another 130,000 where it was posted online in the NAACP's partnership with MoveOn.org.

The U.S. Justice Department has been conducting its own investigation into whether the shooting was motivated by racial pretense, meaning Zimmerman could be charged with a federal hate crime even though he was acquitted in state court, and could also take Zimmerman to trial.

The DOJ released a statement post-verdict saying their investigation was ongoing.

"The department continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial," a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Saturday.

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