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. Julian Santos

    Well if the DOJ gets involved who knows what types of records they probably already have on Zimmerman.

    July 14, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. Tom May

    Florida is a terrible place to raise a child. From toddler Kaylee, to teen Trayvon a child can be murdered and the murderer walk free. What goes on in the minds of Floridians and victims?. Their wanton disregard for life and victims is appalling. It seems its 'open season' on black youth–and by no less a brown perpetrator. Zimmerman must not get away with this murder. All of the systems out there must come together and demand justice and mete justice.

    July 14, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    ok, next caseplease lets not waste time... The human RACE is a race to the GRAVE so lets pickup the pace we need bigger and better weapons for everyone We can become like Syria

    July 14, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. Mark

    This is absolute nonsense. Judging by the evidence from his cellphone, which we have every right to judge him by since we aren't on the jury Trayvon Martin was a violent criminal. Yes there was the hope he would have changed and yes a lot of teenagers go through things like this when they're young but it is a rare thing for a 17 year old to actually go so far as to beat the hell out of an adult in a gated community because he caused him offence by finding him suspicious.

    The only thing that mattered too me in this case was whether or not Martin knew Zimmerman was nothing more then a concerned and nosy neighbor. I think that YES he most certainly did, which means that his violent attack was based on anger and spite rather then trying to protect himself from a "creepy" whatever.
    Most teenagers will just get in to fights with other teenagers! They don't attack adults who are just trying to be responsible!

    Martin wanted a gun, martin apparently had access to a gun, martin apparently stole jewelry, martin wanted to fight, martin had been in fights, Martin vandalized, martin talked about women and treated women like prostitutes.
    I'm getting very sick of people, including the president trying to characterize this case as anything other then what it really is. AN out of control violent 17 year old who finally had to be shot in a tragic self defense case!
    If Martin had continued on living the way he was then he most certainly would have killed someone himself sooner or later and probably for no good reason.

    July 14, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. rabid.wolf.va

    Of course. Does the naacp do anything for the hundreds / thousands of black dying in the streets of Chicago?

    July 14, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  6. Sheida

    Tyrone... as a Black American.. I am praying for you.

    July 14, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. Chuck

    You can't really ask the President, who has removed ALL of your civil liberties and rights, to open a civil case. That's civil right inception I think. Many of you forget that you have no civil rights/liberties anymore. NDAA, NRPA

    Your case is void.

    July 14, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  8. Reload106

    Al Sharpton and Jackson make the race card the issue every chance they can because that is what they do. If the justice department presses charges they will only set the race card back not move in the right direction,plus Holder doesn't need another issue

    July 14, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. U.S. Citizen

    The NAACP has become the Foremen/women that serve the party that created the KKK. It's apparent purpose now is to manipulate a group that has been persuaded to trade one form of slavery for another.

    Rev. C. L. Bryant is spot on in his documentary 'Runaway Slave'.

    July 14, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. U.S. Citizen

    Profiles exist because there is current activity and precedence that support them.

    If a group does not like their profile; change the activity that supports it.

    The destruction and reactionary activity only reinforces the undesired profile.

    To achieve a civil solution; be civil.

    July 14, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. Judy

    Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are both pathetic racists trying to stir up riots "accept the legal system who found Zimmerman innocent. If this was a white man who died neither one of you would be saying a thing. It's not about race so stop trying to make it that way. He shot and killed this young man trying to defend himself, and was found innocent of charges so let the race issue go and accept the legal system we have in place. I'm sick and tired of racism its needs to be stopped, The United Negro Fund, The Black Community Fund, The Association of Black Foundation Executives..........the lists go on and on, these are all groups that single out race and promote the black race, this is RACISM and it's allowed to go on, if there were only one group that promoted the white race by having the word white included in their registered name ....these two men would be all over it. Enough is enough stop racism by promoting it, both men call themselves reverends or ministers of God ........they are both evil racists who like to stir up trouble.

    July 14, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. Gum Boocho

    The whole idea of trying a person for the same action a 2nd time after he is acquitted is a moral & legal outrage. That is double jeopardy, even if they say it isn't. So a man shoots another man & is declared not guilty when tried for murder. Then calling it violating civil rights & retrying it, is double jeopardy in fact - even if the legalists claim it is not.

    July 14, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. Name T Wright

    Its Not over until God says ITs Over. Its Aint over until Victory! Is won.. Stay Strong in the Fight for Justice!

    July 14, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. Judy

    This was a sad situation to begin with, a young man died. I am satisfied with the outcome, Zimmerman acted in self defense and anyone no matter what race or color would have done the same thing if they were having their head bashed against the concrete. We are living in a society that breeds racism of all kinds and crime is committed by all races. The legal system is supposed to find those truth's and punish those who commit those crimes. I believe justice was done. The NAACP needs to comply with the outcome of the legal system and stop this ridiculous quest to try to seek justice when justice has been served is biased they shoud be sued for harassment, which is what i consider there actions to be.

    July 14, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. just sayin

    the politically motivated race based persecution of a law abiding citizen defending his life continues unabated by the farleft in this country. will you be the next one they expect to die when attacked, instead of defending yourself?

    July 14, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  16. Henry

    It's not right 4 him to go free u can't bring a gun to a fist fight TM didn't have a gun da first 48 hrs teach me that I am hurting please do something about this please !!!!!!!!

    July 14, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. Rob

    The court has spoken. Martin was not the sweet innocent the press made him out to be. There was also evidence to support Zimmermans's story and thus there was reasonable doubt. That is how the justice system is supposed to work. A jury should not convict if they have reasonable doubt. It is up to the prosecution to prove guilt and they didn't do that.The jury was right with their verdict

    July 14, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  18. mma guy

    Why is that the news and the state picture the teenage
    The he was a child eating candy and says nothing about the he punch first slammed george zimmer head in to the sidewalk I just want to ask anybody if the wear having their head slammed into their head in to the concrete sidewalk over and over again what would the do would they stand their ground yes or no TRAYVON WAS NO ALTER BOY AND BEFORE THIS HAPPEN THEIR WAS ROBBERY AFTER ROBBERY WHY AFTER THIS HAPPEN WHY NO ROBBERIES NOW

    July 14, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. xxxxxxx

    yeah i hear the naacp has over a 100,00 signatures for some reason , but i can't see no one taking a 100,000 X's serious

    July 14, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. rs

    just sayin
    the politically motivated race based persecution of a law abiding citizen defending his life continues unabated by the farleft in this country. will you be the next one they expect to die when attacked, instead of defending yourself?
    Zimmermann initiated contact, not Martin. Are you really saying that someone who is unarmed can be shot to death, and there should be no questions? I think investigating a death-one with no witness, is hardly race-based- unless you think Blacks should be shot at will.

    July 14, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  21. Precious

    First Travon is not hear to give his side of the story !!!! Who was there to see Travon throw the first punch? George was taught defence all the way round and was given instruction by that neighbor hood woman /instructor in papers as to what to do !!!! NOTHING AND I MEAN NOTHING WAS IN IT THAT READ "FOLLOW", ONLY TO CALL AND REPORT TO 911 AS HE DID AND THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALL HE DONE !!! ZIMMERMAN MAY HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO DO THE ROBBERIES,mma guy. If George would have stayed in his car as just looked from there to see if Travon was going to try and brake in someone house But NO , GEORGE HAD FOLLOW AND DISOBEY ORDERS, NOW A CHILD IS DEAD , DESN'T MATTER WHAT KIND OF CHILD YOU MAY THINK HE WAS , HE HAD THE RIGHT TO WALK IN THE STORM IF HE SO DESIRED, HE WENT TO THE STORE AND DIDN'T ROB IT ,SO LET THAT GO AND ADMITT THOSE WHITE LADIES WAS WRONG , AND THEY WILL GIVE IN ACCOUNT FOR LETTING A MURDER GO FREE .MMA GUY YOUR THEIF WAS ON AN MONITOR THAT IS WHY THERE WERE NO MORE ROBBERIES

    July 14, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  22. rs

    Mr. Martin had choices, the one he choose was wrong. To sucker punch another causing a fractured nose and continue to beat him , causing injury was the wrong thing to do, but many don't think so. Zimmerman was charged, had his day in court, shown the facts by both prosecuter and defense to the jury and the jury looked at the facts and made their decision.
    Mr. Martin committed no crime, nor was he accused of one. Mr. Zimmerman chose to initiate contact with him simply because he was a Black teenager in a white neighborhood. That justifies starting a confrontation that ends with Zimmermann shooting him to death. I think you are missing the bigger picture here. Yes, Zimmerman is innocent in court because of ALEC's "stand your ground" law, but he chose to create a situation that wound up in the death of a 17 year old, who committed no crime. Is this America's future? Shoot people you think don't "belong" in your neighborhood?

    July 14, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  23. james

    Al Sharpton is the most racist person in this country

    July 14, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  24. rs

    The whole idea of trying a person for the same action a 2nd time after he is acquitted is a moral & legal outrage. That is double jeopardy, even if they say it isn't. So a man shoots another man & is declared not guilty when tried for murder. Then calling it violating civil rights & retrying it, is double jeopardy in fact – even if the legalists claim it is not.
    This is what can happen when one chooses to carry a weapon, engage a person who hasn't done anything (against Police advice) and use deadly force when you are not an officer of the law.
    Do you really think that taking a life has no consequences legally or civilly?

    July 14, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  25. Big O

    The jury was fixed from the beginning. Question: Why wasn't there at least one African-American on the jury list? George Zimmerman should have remained in his car until law enforcement arrived. Had this occurred, Travon would more than likely be still alive. How can the jury and Zimmerman face God every day knowing that this senseless act could have been avoided. Rest assured, the good book of God ( the holy bible) states in Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatever you sow, so you shall reap. Romans 12:19 Vengence is the Lord's and he will repay. Psalms 37 Fret not because of evildoers for they will soon be cut off and will wilder like green grass. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus is the same yesterday,
    today, and forever, Amen

    July 14, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
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