If Trayvon Martin's family decides to file a wrongful-death suit against George Zimmerman, they could be opening a Pandora's box, according to Zimmerman's older brother.
"A myriad of things that were off-limits in a criminal trial would come into play in a civil case. Specifically, things that might not be very flattering to Trayvon or his family," Robert Zimmerman Jr. said in an email to The Huffington Post.
George Zimmerman, a 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, was acquitted earlier this month of all criminal charges in the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Prior to the start of Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial, the judge overseeing the case ruled that lawyers for Zimmerman could not mention Martin's alleged history of fighting or pictures of drugs and guns found on his cell phone.
"Public opinion was swayed by a false presentation of this case from the beginning," Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara said at a press conference after the ruling. "The Martin family, through their handlers, presented a picture of who Trayvon was and who George was that is wholly inaccurate."
After the verdict, the Martin family's lawyer, Benjamin Crump, told ABC's "This Week" that his clients were considering a suit against Zimmerman.
"They are going to certainly look at [a lawsuit] as an option. They deeply want a sense of justice. They deeply don't want their son's death to be in vain," he told ABC.
To win in a criminal trial, prosecutors need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Plaintiffs in a civil case do not have that burden.
However, filing a case would be difficult because of Florida's stand your ground law. The statute provides criminal and civil immunity to anyone who uses deadly force in a situation in which one has a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury.
A judge would have to determine whether the law applies in this case. If it does, Zimmerman would be released from liability and would also be able to collect attorney fees, court costs and related expenses.
While Zimmerman has not commented on the outcome of the trial or the possibility of another, his brother said he does not expect the Martin family will actually file suit.
"I don't expect a wrongful death suit ... There is the potential assertion of civil immunity before the case would even start -- things that were off limits during the case might also come up then. Also, a criminal acquittal goes a long way to supporting a civil immunity claim," Robert Zimmerman Jr. told HuffPost.
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