July 14th, 2013
10:02 AM ET
10 years ago

NAACP talking to Justice Department about Zimmerman case

Updated 12:22 p.m. ET on Sunday 7/14

(CNN) – Leaders at the nation's oldest civil rights organization have spoken with senior members of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's team at the Justice Department about pursuing federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, NAACP president Ben Jealous said Sunday, though Holder himself has noted the high bar for establishing a hate crime.

Speaking to chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union," Jealous said he hadn't yet spoken with Holder himself, but that in conversations with Justice Department officials, he had pressed the federal government to continue investigating the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

"We are glad what they began months back continues, which is a serious reviewing of everything that came out in this case, everything that was known before this case," Jealous said.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Martin in February 2012, was acquitted by a jury late Saturday on state criminal charges. A federal civil rights investigation was previously opened in the case, and on Sunday the Justice Department said it would assess whether civil rights charges could be filed.

"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial," the agency said.

Yet in order for federal charges to be brought against Zimmerman, the Justice Department would need to establish that a hate crime was committed, a legal burden Holder has said in the past would be a challenge to meet.

"For a federal hate crime we have to prove the highest standard in the law," Holder said in April 2012. "Something that was reckless, that was negligent does not meet that standard. We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with requisite state of mind."

President Barack Obama, who spoke in personal terms about Trayvon Martin in the aftermath of the teenager's killing more than a year ago, did not publicly react to Saturday's verdict. A White House official referred to the Justice Department's statement when asked about the NAACP's calls for federal civil rights changes against Zimmerman.

On "State of the Union," Jealous argued those charges were a necessary step, given certain factors in the Zimmerman case.

"They will make a choice about whether or not they will pursue criminal civil rights charges. We are calling on them to do just that," he said. "When you look at (Zimmerman's) comments, when you look at his comments about young black men in that neighborhood, about how they felt specially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon."

Speaking later Sunday on CNN, Robert Zimmerman Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman, contended the federal investigation had yet to produce any evidence of racism.

“We welcomed, actually, that investigation through the FBI when they originally started investigating George,” he said. “They've investigated, I think, about three dozen of his closest friends and acquaintances. And there is not any inkling of racism. In fact, there's evidence to show the opposite.”

Groups like the NAACP need to “cool their jets, give everyone some time to kind of process what's going on,” Zimmerman said. “Agitation doesn't help us. It doesn't do anybody any good right now.”

On Saturday, Jealous and the NAACP released a statement saying they were "outraged and heartbroken" over the not-guilty verdict, which the group's leader explained further in the CNN interview.

"We're upset with the situation in this country. As black parents raising black boys and black girls in this society, it feels so often that our young people have to fear the bad guys and the good guys," he said. "The robbers and the cops and the self-appointed community watch volunteer who thinks he's keeping people safer."

Politicians from both parties weighed in on Saturday's verdict during appearances on television Sunday morning. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, calling Martin's death a "tragic event," said he respected the jury's decision.

"Although there may be people on either side of this that don't agree how this came out, the fact is we have the best judicial system in the world and we respect it," he said on CNN. "It's my opinion that a very thoughtful case was made by each side, the jurors made the decision, and we will live with that."

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he accepted the verdict as fair.

"I don't always agree with what the jury does, but that's the system," said the Nevada Democrat. "And I support this system."

On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Steve King of Iowa, an outspoken Republican, blasted Obama's administration for becoming involved in the Zimmerman case, arguing it had been turned into a political issue instead of a legal matter.

"The evidence didn't support prosecution and the Justice Department engaged in this. The president engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law and order," King said.

Filed under: Justice Department • NAACP
soundoff (145 Responses)
  1. michael

    trayvon martin was racially profiled and targeted by Zimmerman by the statements he made to the 911 call it was brought out through the media that he had made many calls about black males breaking in to homes he had it out for a black male and so sadly trayvon crossed his path that night why can not people see that he lied about his intentions that night

    July 14, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  2. FidyCents

    The NAACP has become irrelevant and full of self loathing hypocrites who should be ignored for their actions.

    July 14, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Tired of whites pretending they can't see that everything in America is prejudice.

    July 15, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  4. Lovely

    The whole world knows America is the most racist country in the world.

    July 15, 2013 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  5. Sheila

    IF TM had said : (when GZ was following him) IF TM had said : "hey man, I'm on my way to a basketball game, and I live Just down the street, or on the other street and took down his hoodie, and actually SHOWED GZ that he Just came back from the 7 – 11 and actually SHOWED GZ that he had a bag of Candy & an Ice Tea – SAYING that : Hey man, I know your the neighborhood watch guy – but everything is cool, I'll bet you a thousand dollars – GZ would have told him, okay, no problem, I was just wondering, b/c there's been a rash of problems in this area – so have a good evening – But no, it doesn't happen that way with people of color – the ones that I run into, are rash / vain / have an attitude / rude / crude / & Lude , period. >sorry< to say it – – but that's what I run into –

    July 15, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  6. Greta Evans

    The fact is that Zimmerman was the aggressor. He pursued a 17 teen year old. He was told not to do so. He was motivated by an incident of a break-in that did not involve Martin. All of you who insist on saying oh well or the courts have spoken are revealing your biases. You are saying stereotyping is ok. This is the world we live in. How would you feel if one of your family members was tracked down and when he tried to defend himself he was murdered? God Bless You All and may He renew the right spirit in you. Justice will come.

    July 15, 2013 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  7. necronn99

    Racists did not win. Making there wasaaa syndrome unhappy? I personally hope you all riot.. I will be there.

    July 15, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  8. Michael Benjamin

    How come we don't have the NAAWP?

    July 15, 2013 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  9. Patrick

    Hey you mma guy , i am sure you dont know Travon personally . so you should stop those accusation about the kid. Zimmerman is not a saint as you are saying . If you can read check out his police record

    July 15, 2013 02:27 am at 2:27 am |
  10. Know the facts &

    Black on Black crime is rampant in every state. All of a sudden, this one case has the world in an uproar over an out of control teenager who decided to confront a unknown person whom he thought he could beat because he was white. You all won't follow the facts. Did you notice not one teacher, friend, grand parent or neighbor testified as to how good of a person Trayvon was. He was a unruly kid and his mama could not control him so she did what the average black mother does. . she sent him to his dad. Trayvon has THC (weed) in his system. He also owned a gun (per his personal Facebook page). He was a fight starter and he was not attending school on a regular basis. His parents knew he was a bad seed that's why you never saw his mother cry once in that courtroom. You'll know their true intentions when that Civil suit for a million dollars is filed. George did not stalk or hunt, Trayvon down. He also was NOT a racist. The only time George referenced race was when 911 asked him the race of the person he was following. This is not the 1st case like this. Do you honestly think that there are more white's killing blacks vs blacks killing white or other blacks? If the media and the NAACP keeps knocking on the devils door, that door is bound to open. Trayvon had a lot of secrets and I'm sure his family would like for those secrets to remain with Trayvon. Mark Omara is not going to let the media or the people drag his client without a fight. The state was withholding a lot of evidence and even with them doing that, George still walked. He had every right to follow him to let the police know where his "suspect" was headed. Trayvon approached George, not the other way around. George was getting his ass kicked and screaming for help in the process. Obama has other issues he needs to tend too. George Zimmerman did what any other red blooded American would have done had they been confronted and attacked. George Zimmerman did not violate Trayvon rights.Trayvon assaulted George and he lost his life in that fight. (by the way my household is a combination of black & white).

    July 15, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  11. Open your eyes

    This country was built off of brutality of blacks, brown and women so for this to continue its sad and I am over everyone saying lets learn from this and move forward. did you learn from R.king, Otis grant, shawn bell, emit teal, MLK nope so the buck needs to stop here if not it will just keep on going and that first comment your are not a person of color at all. As a white American you can not understand .the feelings the black race has about this...

    July 15, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  12. chuck

    Henry, dont bring your fists to a gun fight. dats just stupid!

    July 15, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  13. Bruce D McKay

    State of Florida has overlooked THE PRINCIPAL FACT that Zimmerman called in and he was asked specifically, "Are you following him?" He replied, "Yes I am." The reply was immediate and sincere – "We don't need you to do that." He was told NOT TO DO WHAT HE WAS DOING, and his reply was "OK." That is THE PRINCIPLE FACT in this case. But Zimmerman did not stop. He kept right on, (doing what he had been told not to do! EVERYTHING HE DID FROM THAT POINT ON, AND EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED – was due to his taking matters into his own hands – when he had been told "We don't need you to do that!" *Why!" Because somebody might even get killed, and they did! Legally, everything that happened from one end to the other, after Zimmerman had been told "We don't need you to do that," everything else was secondary to the PRINCIPLE FACT! Zimmerman is recorded as saying "ok" AND THEN HE DID NOT IN ANY WAY STOP OR CEASE WHAT HE WAS DOING. He did not listen or comply to what he was told, and he ended up taking another person's life. All that other stuff that was presented to the jury, is like "let's see who can come up with the best story or the best evidences, etc., and we'll go 'round and round' with it all!" In reality, absolutely none of the wounds, concrete, guns, hollering for help, or anything else matters on single bit. All of that is in fact, a mistrial, because the judge and all the rest of the lawyers completely ignored the key to the entire case. They ignored the PRIMARY FACT that Zimmerman was told "We don't need you to do that," and he immediately replied "OK," but he went right on with his plan or plans as to what he thought he wanted to do! I am looking forward to the NAACP getting all of what has happened, straightened out. Sincerely, Bruce D McKay

    July 15, 2013 04:52 am at 4:52 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Maybe we should have the NAAWP investigate???

    July 15, 2013 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  15. M.A.P.

    Wow people are really over-reacting to this case. I find it hard to be outraged because this kid wasn't an angel, he was known to be pretty agressive and not shy away from the opportunity to get into a punch on, therefore the story about him attacking zimmerman is for me totally believable. The way everyone tried to make this into a race war is ridiculous. IT was unfortunate that Mr Martin was followed and is was also unfortunate how he reacted, unfortunate how zimmerman reaxcted but in no way does it reek of rac-ism! IT is maybe a man on patrol who was too eager to protect his community and a young man who was too eager to get into fights. It sucks but it's not a race war guys!!!

    July 15, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  16. M.A.P.

    And all those people with signs saying "if it were a white guy, he would go to jail", well if zimmerman was a black guy all these people wouldnt care. They want this to be about race, when it is not about that at all. The people protesting are the rac-ists in my mind becuase that's all they're focusing on! There was no evidence that Zimmerman is a racist – NONE!

    July 15, 2013 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  17. Worried for my country

    Where was the outrage from the NAACP when O.J. walked free? Should the Federal Government gotten involved in that? Sheida...as an American, I am praying for you (to wake up).

    July 15, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  18. Diogenes2012

    I see this as yet another tragedy ultimately caused by a dysfunctional family. People arguing over who was right or wrong in this media driven farce are wasting their time. The real challenge is creating an environment where families can survive and prosper. Eighty percent of black families were two parent families before World War II. What happened and how can we restore the dignity and integrity of all families? Government, schools, politicians, churches and civil rights groups have failed miserably. The family is our only hope!

    July 15, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  19. Dwain Alexander

    Black American men put a bull's eye on your back because it's hunting seasons, and we are the target's that's what this verdict did. In 2013, a Black kid can get shot in the heart while carrying an Arizona Ice Tea and some Skittles and all the perpetrator has to say that he was in fear for his life and he would get off Scott free If Trayvon Martin would have shot George Zimmerman, he would be hall off to jail right away and everybody know it with no question asked. Even Stevie Wonder can see that's a double standard. I guess all the right-wing fools are happy now I bet you Fox Network is jumping for Joy. Mr. O'Reilly Mr. Hannity and Rush Limbaugh 07/14/2013 is your night since you can't beat Obama a black kid getting shot in the heart is good enough for you. O'K O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh. and you Mr. Zimmerman Let me tell you something about the law not mans law Gods law you reap what you sew and I think you people are going to be experiencing that real soon. And Black men If we have to go down we might as well go down fighting we have a natural right to survive and protect ourselves by ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

    July 15, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Maybe we should arm the young black children in Chicago so they can defend themselves against the black gang violence there. They are the ones who holder should be protecting and not some young teen who takes the law into his own hands because he thinks his way is the only way, and not report the incident to the authorities like he should have done. Then if the law enforcement doesn't, do their job ,let Holder investigate them . That's what he is being paid for..

    July 15, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
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