Report: Feds weigh hate crime charge in Trayvon Martin death

9:54 AM, May 15, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman from Florida charged in the killing of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, could face federal hate crime charges, WFTV is reporting.

Zimmerman profiled and stalked Martin before allegedly shooting and killing him on Feb. 26, so now the FBI is looking into charging Zimmerman with a hate crime, the television station reports Florida state prosecutors have said.

Zimmerman has said he acted in self defense.

If Zimmerman is convicted of his second-degree murder charge, he could face life in prison, but a hate crime charge could mean he would face the death penalty, WFTV reports.

FBI representatives are interviewing residents of Zimmerman's neighorhood in Sanford, Fla., looking for evidence of a hate crime, according to WFTV.

WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said: "What the government would have to prove is that Mr. Zimmerman acted out of hatred toward African Americans. That's why he came into contact with him. That's why he shot and killed him."

Meantime, Zimmerman lawyer Mark O'Mara tells WKMG television that he received a threat Monday. He said police officers were at his office investigationg, WKMG reports.

No further details were available.

Photo Gallery: Trayvon Martin photos

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Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY

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