Obama won't get involved in federal charges against Zimmerman
July 15th, 2013
12:51 PM ET
1 year 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. Zimmerman-Trial Questions...

    America's mind-set is wrong from all sides..African-American's leadership together with all other narrow-minded views
    as of what America should be. Perhaps some-one needs to take the lead from Nelson Mandela and finally put America's dark past of injustices to rest by starting the process of Reconciliation to mose forward. Furthermore the
    media need to take again the lead to inform and to agitate....!

    July 15, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  2. Zimmerman-Trial Questions...

    The Media needs to take again the lead to inform and not to agitate..!

    July 15, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  3. Data Driven

    I'll take the contrary opinion: Obama, or any President, can say whatever the heck they like about any subject they like. A president is a citizen, too.

    But I forget: many of you don't think Obama was born in the USA. (shrugs)

    July 15, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  4. Steveo

    @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.
    -----------
    So you are saying parents are teaching their kids they are second class citizens and are not ALLOWED to look authority in the eye? I am a black male! Let me tell you want I taught my children, Rudy. Treat the cops with respect, talk to them with respect because just like you and me, at the end of their day all they want to do is safey go home! Yes, there are rogue cops, apparently, there are rogue parents too! The cycle continues, huh?

    July 15, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  5. Grandma

    Nowhere has it been pointed out that Trayvon was taller and in better shape than Zimerman. Why did he(Trayvon) decide it was better to jump Zimmerman than to just get away from him??? We keep seeing the same pictures over and over of Trayvon when is looks to be about 14 not 17.Why?

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

    Correction: "what" I taught my children and all they want to do is "safely" go home.

    July 15, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  7. Steveo

    @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.
    ---------
    So then where is he when folks of "other" skin tones die? We need to understand he cannot just speak up when the dead is black. He is THE president, he is NOT Al Sharpton!

    July 15, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  8. Sniffit

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

    Perhaps you should learns the facts of the case and that Zimmerman stopped Martin on the street and began badgering him. Martin didn't just start attacking him for no reason.

    July 15, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. just sayin

    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...
    --

    i understand civil rights very well. civil rights does not give trayvon martin the right to viciously assault another person. martin attacked george zimmerman in the darkness of night. he was going to teach him a lesson i guess. well the lesson martin learned was that people can defend thmeselves and sometimes with a gun. martin was not some 12 year old. he was a 17 year old athlete that was known for his fighting. nobody is gunning kids down in the street as you ridiculously state. please try to stick to the facts.

    July 15, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. tom l.

    @Dominican,
    I am very curious to hear your opinion as to why this was "unjust". Tell me what law that Zimmerman broke based on the facts of the case. The facts are pretty clear. Not only that, remember when you respond I would greatly appreciate your sticking to what we know for sure in the case and not to make assumptions. I have a feeling what happened that night, but I'm curious to hear your opinion.

    July 15, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. L. Lester

    Obama will just have his stooge Eric Holder do the dirty work.

    July 15, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "not some fantasy about a guy stalking a kid and killing him because he want to kill him."

    IT's not fantasy. The FACTS showed that Zimmerman disobeyed an order by the 911 dispatcher to not follow the kid. The FACTS showed that Zimmerman lied repeatedly to investigators immediately following the shooting and that his stories didn't match, including nonsense about him saying he didn't know which street he was on, "so I was driving around to see the street signs, not following him"...when it comes out later he's lived there for years and there are only three streets. Medical testimony showed that the abrasions on the back of his head were superficial, not like what one would get from having your head repeatedly slammed on a curb or sidewalk. The guy was a proven liar and while the jury was allowed to make whatever decision it wanted, it still came down to allowing someone to claim self defense for a situation he himself created, seemingly on purpose.

    July 15, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. Guess

    Jim, there were no scandals, the more that comes out, the more lies from the gop surface, but they wont push any farher on the issues, for a real investigation might incur, you know where all the info comess out, not cherrypicked pieces strung together to mislead, that is where the investigations are, and thats whyissa has stopped pushing, he is having a hard time explaining why certain info was ignored, and others taken out of context, your party is full of liars, like it or not

    July 15, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Fact is, this is precisely what the "stand your ground" law was intended to do. Give people with guns reasons to instigate sh-t that they can then end with a trigger, especially so they could then rely on the implied "but it was a black kid in a hoody and so it made me extra scared for my life."

    July 15, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. Leopard88

    Justice Department: We the people of the United States demand a thorough investigation into the killing of young Trayvon Martin for civil rights violations. The gross verdict in the state's case has prompted outrage as to why an unarmed teenager was profiled pursued and then murdered (many feel) because of his race. The people of the United states demand a review of laws in states such as Florida where armed vigilantes are allowed to use unnecessary force and why these laws fall short in protecting the civil rights of victims who fall prey to them. Once a life is taken it can never be returned. These laws wreak of political pandering as well as racial injustice. We the people of the United states demand justice for the family of young Trayvon Martin and hope that his untimely death will serve as yet another reminder of the ever present need for stricter gun regulations as well as laws that protect all Americans regardless of race, political, or social status. The time is now.

    July 15, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  16. Bill S.

    No matter what, from now on thugs are going to think twice before physically assaulting another person. Especially in Florida.

    July 15, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "Obama will just have his stooge Eric Holder do the dirty work."

    Guess what Zimmerman's lawyers won't be arguing in court. Guess. Here's what you won't here: "This is a witchhunt by the Obama administration based solely on politics and Obama and Holder being black people who want to score one for their race...so the case should be dismissed." Know why? There will be zero evidence to support that and they won't even bother trying to engage in discovery to find any. Know why? Because it's ridiculous and untrue and just political rhetoric from the GOP/Teatrolls designed to inflame white race resentment towards the growing political power of minorities.

    July 15, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  18. Steveo

    @Sniffit

    "not some fantasy about a guy stalking a kid and killing him because he want to kill him."

    IT's not fantasy. The FACTS showed that Zimmerman disobeyed an order by the 911 dispatcher to not follow the kid. The FACTS showed that Zimmerman lied repeatedly to investigators immediately following the shooting and that his stories didn't match, including nonsense about him saying he didn't know which street he was on, "so I was driving around to see the street signs, not following him"...when it comes out later he's lived there for years and there are only three streets. Medical testimony showed that the abrasions on the back of his head were superficial, not like what one would get from having your head repeatedly slammed on a curb or sidewalk. The guy was a proven liar and while the jury was allowed to make whatever decision it wanted, it still came down to allowing someone to claim self defense for a situation he himself created, seemingly on purpose.
    ----------–
    Was it an order or a suggestion? Dispatchers don't have that authority!

    July 15, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Steveo

    So you are saying parents are teaching their kids they are second class citizens and are not ALLOWED to look authority in the eye? I am a black male! Let me tell you want I taught my children, Rudy. Treat the cops with respect, talk to them with respect because just like you and me, at the end of their day all they want to do is safey go home! Yes, there are rogue cops, apparently, there are rogue parents too! The cycle continues, huh?
    ------------------------–
    Of course parents teach their kids to respect cops, but they also have to teach them to never let their guard down. Just look at all of incidents of white police shooting black Americans. First to mind are the 41 bullets in the Dialo case.

    What cycle are you talking about? Rogue parents? A derelict parent would be the one who did NOT teach their child wariness.

    July 15, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  20. Boo

    Need I remind Obama haters, that it was THE PRESS that asked him about this case. IT WASN'T LIKE HE INITIATED THE DEBATE. I am sick of people AND the press (see the opinion section of this site) NOT TELLING THE WHOLE STORY.

    July 15, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  21. Guess

    Ole george should have gotten a manslaughter conviction, in my opinion, he was caught lying, and his desire to police was overboard, the 9q1 dispatcher telling him not to follow may have been good advise but they have no authority, so him ignoring that request did not mean alot to me, his story was where my concerns were. that being said, oj was guilty as sin, and walked, did not agree, but accepted it for what it was, poor job by prosecutors

    July 15, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. Steveo

    @Rudy NYC

    Steveo

    So you are saying parents are teaching their kids they are second class citizens and are not ALLOWED to look authority in the eye? I am a black male! Let me tell you want I taught my children, Rudy. Treat the cops with respect, talk to them with respect because just like you and me, at the end of their day all they want to do is safey go home! Yes, there are rogue cops, apparently, there are rogue parents too! The cycle continues, huh?
    --------–
    Of course parents teach their kids to respect cops, but they also have to teach them to never let their guard down. Just look at all of incidents of white police shooting black Americans. First to mind are the 41 bullets in the Dialo case.

    What cycle are you talking about? Rogue parents? A derelict parent would be the one who did NOT teach their child wariness
    -----------
    What does wariness (which is fear), have to do with looking a cop in the eye?

    July 15, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    "Was it an order or a suggestion? Dispatchers don't have that authority!

    Again, that DOES NOT MATTER. Man...you guys really have quite the ability to latch onto irrelevant crap. His failure to heed that direction is STILL evidence that his behavior was reckless, wanton and in disregard of the dangerous situation he was creating. I wasn't in any way claiming that he was breaking a law for failing to listen to the dispatcher, so get off it and get relevant.

    July 15, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "No matter what, from now on thugs are going to think twice before physically assaulting another person. Especially in Florida."

    No matter what, from now on [scary black people in hoodies] are going to think twice before physically assaulting [some racist pr-ck who is harassing them on the street even though they were doing nothing wrong and minding their own business].

    Don't worry, we know what you meant...and we know that it's precisely what the "stand your ground" law was designed to encourage.

    July 15, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. ????

    An African-American male is more likely to be murdered by another African-American male rather than someone from a different ethnic group.

    July 15, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
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