Those demanding justice for Noah Jamahl Jones, the black Pasadena teenager who died in a brawl last summer, said they are pinning their hopes on a federal civil rights probe now that local prosecutions have ended.

But experts say that hope may be in vain. Such federal civil rights cases are rare. And the local prosecutor - who dropped murder charges against four young white men last year, and then dropped manslaughter charges brought in the case after one suspect was acquitted this month - said he never found evidence of a hate crime.

"The federal government can step in and prosecute; however, they would only do so if they felt there was something wrong with what the local prosecutor did," said Abraham Dash, a University of Maryland law professor and former federal prosecutor. "I can't see that happening here. The state's attorney there is an experienced guy, and he had a tough case."

On Tuesday, Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee announced that he was dismissing manslaughter, assault and other charges against the four men in the July death of Jones, 17.

The move came nearly two weeks after an all-white jury acquitted Jacob Tyler Fortney, who also is white, of the same charges. Weathersbee said he had no chance of winning the remaining cases.

Prosecutors had already agreed to drop charges against a sixth white defendant who testified against Fortney.

Pushing for probe

Weathersbee has been under fire from the victim's mother, Robin Jones, and local civil rights leaders for his handling of the case.

Weathersbee has arranged to provide all materials relating to the case to federal prosecutors, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the county state's attorney's office.

Last fall, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to review the case at the request of the Anne Arundel County chapter of the NAACP and two congressional representatives.

"We think the federal investigation is going to be kick-started now that charges have been dropped," said Carl O. Snowden, a black community leader who is an aide to Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens. "There is a question that remains unanswered and that is: Who will be held responsible for the death of Jamahl Jones?"

It's unclear where the federal investigation, announced in September, stands.

"We are aware of the district attorney's decision, and we are determining whether further action is appropriate," Justice Department spokesman Eric Holland said last week.

Experts on civil rights law said it's rare for federal prosecutors to pursue cases that have been lost or dropped at the local level. The lack of physical evidence and conflicting witness accounts that hurt the local case could make it unappealing for federal prosecutors, said Charles F. Abernathy, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

"These kinds of factors, in the general run of cases, make it very rare for federal prosecutors to follow state failures," Abernathy said.

Federal law is designed to account for factors beyond those considered locally. Abernathy said some federal prosecutors move forward because they believe local prosecutors haven't produced thorough cases.

He said the fact that the jury in Fortney's trial was all white also could catch a federal prosecutor's eye. But he said that without evidence of an egregious oversight by local prosecutors, a federal case would be unlikely.

"As a practical matter, prosecutors don't do that because they're investing a lot of resources," Abernathy said. "They're very reluctant to do these."

The cases arose from a melee that broke out July 24 after Jones and his friends showed up at a house party in Pasadena, reportedly to rescue a friend they thought might be in danger. Within minutes, Jones lay dying in the street.