The U.S. Justice Department, which opened an investigation into the George Zimmerman case Sunday, could charge him with federal civil rights violations, local attorneys said.

While a Florida jury found neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder, a federal probe would examine whether he violated Martin's civil rights when he fatally shot him Feb. 16, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.

To prove such violations requires a different standard of evidence and law than what was used in the state case against Zimmerman. So a federal prosecution would not be double jeopardy, they said.

Robert Valli, a Garden City-based civil rights attorney said if a probe proceeds, the local federal prosecutor would probably seek a grand jury indictment on charges that Zimmerman violated the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Valli said potential charges would be the government's "version of a homicide charge, coupled with the intention to do so because of the person's membership in a protected class."

Fred Brewington, a Hempstead civil rights attorney, who has conversed with the Martin legal team, said "a federal action is feasible" and would be based on several sections of federal law.

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A federal trial would be separate from any civil litigation for monetary damages that Martin's parents may choose to file against Zimmerman.

"This is a very, very intense time period for the family," Brewington said. The public "has to realize that a life has been taken. We continue to be in support of them. No matter what we look at in this case, it is a tragedy."