04/04/2012 12:16 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Lawyer Raises Questions About Role Of Shooter's Ex-Judge Father In Investigation

An attorney for Trayvon Martin's family expressed concern over the role Robert Zimmerman, the father of the man who shot and killed Martin, may have played in the investigation of the shooting.

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Natalie Jackson said that the elder Zimmerman, a former magistrate judge, understands "“what probable cause needs to be” in order to arrest a suspect or to issue a warrant. Robert Zimmerman was present when the police questioned his son the day after the shooting and re-enacted the incident.

Jackson told ThinkProgress that the elder Zimmerman's presence was possibly inappropriate because "we don't know what coaching went on."

In the minutes before the shooting, George Zimmerman called 911 to report that Martin, a 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Fl., as "suspicious." Martin was unarmed, and was returning home from a convenience store that evening, carrying his cellphone, $22 in his wallet, a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman admitted to shooting and killing Martin, after a confrontation. Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, was not charged or arrested in the shooting. Activists from around the country have held rallies and protests to call for charges to be brought against Zimmerman.

On Monday, Benjamin Crump, who represents Martin's family along with Jackson, sent a letter to the Justice Department which said that on the night of the shooting "family members of shooter George Zimmerman were present at the police department."

Last week, Robert Zimmerman appeared on a local television news broadcast to defend his son. In addition to reporting a threat Martin allegedly made to Zimmerman just before he was shot — which did not appear in the police report — he said that his role as a magistrate judge had little bearing on the investigation.

"Do you think being a judge affected this case in any way?" the reporter asked. "Do you think they gave George an easier time because of this?"

Robert Zimmerman said it did not. "No one knew that I was a retired magistrate judge. I didn't mention it to the police, I didn't mention it to the state attorney's office. Somehow the press picked up on it, but I've never mentioned it to anyone."

Robert Zimmerman added that had a similar case come before him in his role as a magistrate judge, a warrant "would absolutely be denied."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the Martin family.



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