Obama won't get involved in federal charges against Zimmerman
July 15th, 2013
12:51 PM ET
9 months ago

Obama won't get involved in federal charges against Zimmerman

Updated at 3:55 p.m. ET on 7/15

(CNN) – President Barack Obama, who on Sunday called the killing of Trayvon Martin a tragedy, will not involve himself personally in deciding whether to bring federal civil rights charges against Martin's killer George Zimmerman.

"That is not something the president involves himself in," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday when asked about potential federal charges against Zimmerman, who was found not guilty of murdering Martin by a jury on Saturday.

"He has no opinion to express about the disposition about how the Justice Department will look at this," Carney continued.

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP, have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to pursue federal charges against Zimmerman. Petitions sponsored by the NAACP had already garnered almost 800,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon, while separate petitions on the White House's own website had gained nearly 15,000 supporters.

Speaking at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority in Washington Monday, Holder said the Justice Department is investigating possible federal charges in Martin's killing, adding in prepared comments it will "continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law." Holder has previously cited a tough standard for bringing federal charges against Zimmerman.

"Independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally-charged issues that this case has raised," Holder said. "We must not – as we have too often in the past – let this opportunity pass."

Carney, responding to a question from CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin about increased pressure on Obama's administration to act quickly on bringing federal charges, asserted that established procedures would continue to be followed, despite the swelling outrage.

"Cases are brought on their merits, and the merits are evaluated by professionals at the Department of Justice, and the president expects as in every case that the process will be handled at the Department of Justice and not here," Carney said.

On Sunday, less than 24 hours after the verdict came down, Obama released a statement urging Americans to respect calls for calm in the aftermath of the jury's decision.

The president, in the written statement, acknowledged an emotionally charged climate but concluded that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

Obama's first comments on the Zimmerman trial came in March 2012, when the president said the fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American teen required national "soul searching."

The president also personalized the shooting in those remarks. He told reporters he thought about his own children when he thought about Martin.

"I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together - federal, state and local - to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened," Obama said at that time.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Florida • President Obama
soundoff (54 Responses)
  1. just sayin

    he doesn't need to 'get involved'. he already is with his prejudicial statements. his laptop eric holder will know what he needs to do in order to please obama. persecute and prosecute an innocent law abiding us citizen named george zimmerman and wasting millions of our tax dollars in the process. but the leftists they are will not keep them from further dividing this country up based on race. it is what they do.

    July 15, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein

    Obama is smart to stay out of it so that it can go through the proper review without influence.

    July 15, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Robert Jay

    The president is correct-follow the facts. Going to trial in the first place was marginally correct – minmal / verifiable facts availble – Then Prosector gets involve because emotions run high and he / she thinks emotions – not facts will result in a guilty verdict – once again thanksfully proved wrong – facts not emotions win verdicts which is as it was planned by our forefathers and is as it should be.- hopefully forever

    July 15, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    Most young black children are taught to be wary of certain people like randomly trying to kill you. They are taught to not make eye contact with the police if they are passing you in a vehicle. They are taught many things about survival that most white children are never taught, because black kids live in a world that treats them completely differently from white kids.

    July 15, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Dixie

    POTUS became involved when he wanted DOJ to start to investigate last year. That being said I feel the jury has spoken and if there are grounds to appeal use them. Gov. Officials need to be hands off and let the lawyers involved do their job.

    July 15, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    There are those out there who think the President was wrong to comment on this case to begin with. I beg to differ with them. This case clearly is an American issue about how justice eludes people of color. I think he was right to speak out then as he is OUR leader and I think he was right to speak out after the verdict to ensure peace. Where ever the DOJ takes it from here is on them.

    July 15, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. freedom

    Obama already got involved when he said Trayvon could be his son – give me a break! He has crippled this nation to the point that these idiots in the streets aren't working instead of being annoyances – and this group of Americans have allowed him to distort their minds that this one case is a statement on all cases in America. Of course – involving race – because the president is half-black. It's not even sad – it's ridiculous. Trayvon's family isn't even reacting this way.

    July 15, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How many times do they have to say this before the willfully ignorant usual suspects IGNORE it....again?

    July 15, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  9. guest

    Race baiting in this country has become a multi-billion dollar industry that keeps many rolling in dough. They have distorted and used a smple case of self defense to further their race mongering.

    July 15, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  10. Hooper

    I'm sure he's got more important issues to contend with. That's why there's a judicial system. To take care of matters pertaining to law.

    July 15, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The President had not only every right to comment (as we're doing) but also an obligation to do so as POTUS in light of the jury's decision that evidently, based on reactions across the nation, boggled the mind of many an individual.
    This topic is incediary he needed to go out there and ask for respect for the jury's decision and calm.....in the face of an injustice (these are my words not his, but I do believe that he thought them).

    July 15, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. STOP Persecuting and Prosecuting Law Abiding Citizens Exercising their Right of Self Defense

    I guess the six member jury in Florida didn't get the memo from the lefties that they wer esupposed to railroad George Zimmerman. The judge sur elooked like she got the memo. Thankfully those six jurors appplied the law correctly abd decided all of the FACTS said George Zimmerman exercised his right of self defense after being attacke by Trayvon Martin.

    July 15, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Iris

    As a first generation American my perception is that behavior, not color, determines people's evaluations of an individual. Young American males of any color would help themselves by avoiding marijuana and other drugs, aggressively pursuing a good education and good jobs. Many do. Anybody can. Too bad a few rabble rousers encourage people to overlook compelling facts .

    July 15, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  14. Fair is Fair

    Nor should he.

    July 15, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. 82ndABNVET

    "Independent of the legal determination that will be made, I believe that this tragedy provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about the complicated and emotionally-charged issues that this case has raised," Holder said. "We must not – as we have too often in the past – let this opportunity pass."

    ______________

    So basically....................we are going to ram gun control down your throats once again. This case had nothing to do with gun control. It was about self defense. It would have still been about self defense if Zimmerman stabbed Martin with a knife and killed him. Same difference. Self Defense.

    July 15, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  16. Steve

    Where were all these NAACP ,civil rights protesters when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty ? Were they secretly
    rejoicing because a guilty black man got away . Race will always be an issue as long as we allow people to use it
    to further their own self interest and fame . Face it this was pure political face time and that was it !!!

    July 15, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  17. jim wiley

    The BIG DISTRACTION—George Zimmerman.

    “We have four dead Americans—what difference does it make,” said Hillary Clinton.

    AM I the only person who sees and understands that the George Zimmerman trial and verdict controversy is a subterfuge/distraction away from Benghazi, IRS and Fast & Furious—no mention of any of these very troubling issues on the news—it’s all about Zimmerman, Martin, and Holder who might charge Zimmerman—YEA Obama for a masterful distraction—and BTW, Obama, where were you REALLY born?

    July 15, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  18. talldarkfree

    Just Sayin –

    This is neither a "left or right" political issue. This is an American Issue. You should consider returning to school and pay attention to "Civil Rights" as it pertains to American History (or maybe your school district didn't teach anything about that in your neck of the backwoods.

    Our children (black or white) don't deserve to be gunned down in the streets because if ignorant folks like zimmerman. Tryvon can't speak,otherwise the outcome may have been different. Instead of bringing in politics, and blaming the left, maybe you should feel something for the Martin family...it could be yours, considering the gun toting idiots you approve of...

    July 15, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  19. California Gary

    And do tell @STOP......why is it that Trayvon didn't have a right to defend himself against someone who was stalking him? Why does that right to "self defense" only apply to Zimmerman?

    July 15, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  20. California Gary

    @Steve........if you will recall, after O.J was found not guilty, other avenues were pursued and he did in fact have to "pay a price" for what occurred. I trust that you won't object when that happens in this case also?

    July 15, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  21. Bill from GA

    Rudy NYC
    "... black kids live in a world that treats them completely differently from white kids. "

    Without a scientific-method analysis, only from watching the local news, it appears to me that a young black kid is much more likely to be killed by another black male. likely wearing a hoody, than from a white guy. Or a cop.

    Around Atlanta recently, a black teen was killed, by two other black youth, over his tennis shoe collection (another was shot trying to rob tennis shoe collectors in line to buy collector tennis shoes; the color of the shooter was not revealed). A 2 year old black was shot recently while a black tried to rob the father. It goes on and on.

    Where is the outrage over that?

    Why doesn't our President speak out on that issue, probably the greatest threat to blacks? (Well, obesity may be a greater threat, and Mrs. Obama IS speaking out on that issue.)

    July 15, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Nor should he.
    --------------
    There were some loud protests in and around NYC last night. LA, too. Pres. Obama needed to make a plea for peace.

    July 15, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. King

    "Most young black children are taught to be wary of certain people like randomly trying to kill you."

    Perhaps they should be taught to keep on walking and not to attack people who might be armed.

    July 15, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  24. Donna

    Dominican mama 4 Obama
    The President had not only every right to comment (as we're doing) but also an obligation to do so as POTUS in light of the jury's decision that evidently, based on reactions across the nation, boggled the mind of many an individual.
    -----

    If it boggled thei rmind then they were ignorant of the facts in the case or had already made up their mind based on racial prejudice, aka racism. The verdict was totally expected by those that looked at the FACTS. Not conjecture, not theory, not some fantasy about a guy stalking a kid and killing him because he want to kill him.

    I suggest you and all others that do not think justice was rendered correctly to read Alan Dershowitz's opinion that stated the prosecutors in the case shoul dbe disbarred for some of their factually unsupported statements.

    July 15, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Peace

    Jeb Bush who signed "stand your ground law" doesn't fit to lead the nation if he is planning to jump into 2016 race. What a bogus law is, allowing people to pull the trigger if they believe they are in danger. Some fill they are in danger even hearing a stranger coughing.

    July 15, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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