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. sunshine

    When a teen can not leave his home to go to the store to purchase skittles and tea. And while en route back to his home is killed by Zimmerman. There is a problem. Perhaps if Trayvon was armed it would at least been a fair fight.

    July 14, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  2. lewdude

    This is ridiculous. Whether or not you agree with the verdict, Zimmerman was judged by a jury based on the law. He's had his day in court. It's over. Leave the man alone.

    If you don't agree with the decision, change the law or work to get better prosecutors. Don't continue to harass a man who has been found not guilty in a court of law. Statements by someone who carries the weight of Harry Reid should be illegal and we should work to get that fixed as well. Now Zimmerman who again was found not guilty in a court of law has to worry about the D.O.J. when this should be over for him.

    I hate that a guy died and all of this has happened to any of them but our system has been put to work and the people have spoken.

    July 14, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  3. Mother of a Black Boy

    I like the way "Tyrone S" has chosen to take the word of a Hispanic man that has referred to himself, and his family, as WHITE AMERICAN. Black men are always painted as the 'big black monster' IF Trayvon beat that murderer, TRAYVON did it in self defense!
    "MMA Guy – reality check, YOU don't know who threw the first punch, and you don't know when the robberies began and stopped in that neighborhood...........maybe it was you that did the robberies? It is good to know that if you happen to walk in the dark and a stranger stalks and profiles you, you would not attempt to SAVE YOURSELF...........oh, maybe YOU have never been RACIALLY PROFILED....'
    as long as the murderer has 15 different versions of his pathetic story, and the MAJORITY population feels content, then it shall suffice
    congratulations, another black man dead, no one is accountable....SMDH

    July 14, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  4. Karen Mallory

    Ameica is in trouble as a nation.
    American's have lost their consious.
    This is a travesty of justice.
    People lie without thought , or impunity.
    To save a friend "you lie your head off, when the truth will do.
    What are we?

    July 14, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  5. Davis

    Justice served.

    July 14, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  6. Name

    There is two sides to every story,I guarantee you thst if Trayvon was alive, his story eould be different. Unfortunately Trayvon is not here to tell his side so therefore Zimmerman lied to make it appear to be self defense. We will never know the truth, but God knows all, he sit high and look low. He knows all and there will be judgement day so Zimmerman better get ready because he will have to give in account for his actions.

    July 14, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. Barb Hildebrand

    I think Trayvon and Zimmerman were both in the wrong.Zimmerman should've stayed in his car when he called 911 and they told him not to follow the suspect and Trayvon shoud've kept running to his fathers house instead of confronting Zimmerman and acting out on his anger which caused him to threaten Zimmerman until he knocked him to the ground and held his hand over his nose which caused Zimmerman to fight for his life and unfortunately he had his gun which took Trayvon"s life.Today there's too many disrespecting people by assaulting,robbery,etc.and they are paying the price for themselves and their parents.

    July 14, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  8. Olb

    If GM head got slam that many times into the payment, he would not have been able 2 shoot anybody. That was just one lie in a web of lies.

    July 14, 2013 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  9. peaceable007

    As i set sick on my couch I looked at the fact that these 6 white women do not realize what they have done. I live in a majority white and India neighborhood. My son is now 8 years old. By not holding GZ accountable for his actions. It says that the next GZ can follow, stalk, and kill the next Treyvon Martin; a kid walking from the store, with Skittles and a Juice. I a praying that GOD will intervene on this and that the federal government does something to hold this Murder accountable for his reckless and unwarranted actions. I stand for JUSTICE FOR Treyvon Martin!!!!! I also pray that GOD will touch the heart of Legislation and the the "Stand Your Ground Law" in Florida an any other state will be done away with. I think it is a License to commit MURDER and GET AWAY with IT!! Let me ask a question HOW DOES GZ get away with MURDERING an UNARMED KID; and a BLACK FEMALE IN FLORIDA GETS 20 Years for firing a warring shot at her abusive husband for which she had a documented order of protection... JUSTICE? WHERE IS JUSTICE? THIS SYSTEM DOES NOT WORK; IT IS SERIOUSLY BROKEN AND SOMEONE NEEDS TO SAY STOP!!! HOW DOES 6 White women get to Judge a White Man MURDERING a UNARMED BLACK KID? JUSTICE WHERE IS JUSTICE?????????

    July 14, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  10. connie

    Do you black people remember after Rodney King got over a million dollars, what the white people did NOTHING. Did you see what some black’s did to poor Reggie Denny, thy pulled him from his work truck and beat the hell out of him, for WHAT! No reason at all. Did we riot when Rodney used the money for more drugs, while Reggie is still recovering, no and we never will? Do you see where this is going; if it does not stop, we will be in a racial war, where no one wins! It is time to let it go and move on. No more race card. We are sick of it. We all have to work heard for what we want (If I cannot say the N word, then you cannot say WT, all though it is freedom of speech and it is just a word.
    Stop putting it in your songs for the younger generation to hear. you are contradicting your self’s.

    July 14, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Florida Statutes: A person commits the act of stalking when the person "willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly FOLLOWS, harasses, or cyberstalks another person." §784.048(2). A "course of conduct" is a "pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose." § 784.048(1)(b).

    July 14, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. j

    I don't know whether or not the Justice Department is going to investigate this case. I doubt if they will. It is just really sad to read post after post about people who feel that Zimmerman was justified in doing what he did. When did it become a crime to be walking back from a store carrying skittles and ice tea between 7 – 8 pm at night? When did it become a crime to walk in a neighborhood that your father lives in? When did it become a crime for a young person when confronted by an adult with a gun to not try and defend themselves? We don't know at what point he knew Zimmerman had a gun. I can imagine this 17 year old walking down the street minding his own business talking on a cell phone, when did that become a crime? He sees someone following him. As an adult, I would be scared. Can you imagine a 17 year old? No, he was not a saint, who is? Zimmerman had no reason to call the police and no reason to follow him. Just because they have had some break ins in that area and said it was by black youths does that mean that every black youth walking through that neighborhood is a criminal? If you say or think yes, than that is racial profiling which is exactly what Zimmerman did. It is also saying that every black youth walking through that area should fear for their lifes. Where else just because you get in a fist fight with someone are you justified in taking out a gun and then shooting them? Trayvon had a right to defend himself when this grown man decided to get out of his car and follow him. And for those of you who said that Trayvon approached Zimmerman, whose words are you going off of, Zimmerman or Trayvon's? Wait, can't be Trayvon's because he was killed. None of these post which are basically blaming Trayvon for his own murder are addressing the issue that Zimmerman had no reason whats so ever to follow him and approach him. And if you say he didn't approach him, why did he get out of his car but to confront Trayvon. Within minutes of the call to 911 this youth was dead. Stand Your Ground. How about neighborhood watch, stay in your car and call the police and let them handle it. Again for these post that basically are blamming Trayvon and justifying what Zimmerman did, picture this being your child, saint or no saint, would you say Zimmerman was still justified if this was your child coming back from the store and he had not done anything wrong and then you find out some grown man followed him after the police told him not to and then shot and killed him while he was probably trying to defend himself. Would you still be saying the same thing???????????????

    July 14, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  13. American

    They have to manufacture a made up case against Zimmerman because he's an innocent man.

    July 14, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  14. Ora

    First of all, there should have been a change of venue...Secondly, that was not a jury of Trayvon's peers. Zimmerman was no altar boy either. He was a twisted individual that had a gun, a motive, and wanted to prove something. Zimmerman was a dejected wanna be cop who should have stayed in his truck. He stalked Trayvon, who had the right to defend himself and Zimmerman got an ass whupping that was humiliating; because of this humiliation he chose to shoot Trayvon. None of this would have happened if "altar boy" stayed in his truck. By the by the jury was made up of Casey Anthony alternates.

    July 14, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  15. j

    for mmm 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
    No one is trying to make Trayvon out to be a saint child eating candy as you say. The only persons account that Trayvon punched him first and then slammed his head into the concrete over and over is Zimmerman's, really??? Wait it is not like Zimmerman lied repeatly about what happened that night. If he was so innocent like he claimed, why did he not get on the stand to give his accounts of what happened? After all Trayvon could not defend himself on the stand and apprantly, he was not suppose to defend himself when Zimmerman followed him and more than likely approached him versus it being the other way around. Why don't we ask people, if you have called 911 and they told you that we don't need you to follow this person, how many still would have then would have gotton out of their car? The fact is, if Zimmerman had of done what he was told, Trayvon would still be alive. And when you say no robberies now, are you saying that Trayvon was the one doing the robberies and they stopped because he was killed? Or are you saying that robberies now know if you come into that neighborhood you more than likely will be shot and killed?

    July 14, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  16. j

    Tyrone S. are you serious?????? Since when is being a 6 foot tall teenager a crime and getting suspended for fighting at school to be punishable by death? You have no idea what kind of person this child was. You can only go based on what the media has said. How many young people do you know that while not saints you would say well, they got into a fight they deserve to be shot and killed I don't think that many other people would have been in this situation because most people I believe would have done what the police told them to do. When Zimmerman saw Trayvon and called 911 he said these "a holes keep getting away with this". He was angry, profiled Trayvon as being a criminal, got out of his car and pursued him. Then when he got into a fight that he felt he could not win with his fist, he shot and killed him. At the end of the day, a child was killed. Yes a child for doing nothing but walking down a street minding his own business until followed and pursued. You bring shame to people in general for blaming the victim. Trayvon was the victim not Zimmerman.

    July 14, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  17. Buddy Love

    NAACP, I am a person of color {Alabaster} White, can't help it, I was born this way, it was not my choice, I think Justice was served. If they had both been black you would have heard nothing about this case. Don't be down on white people, this guy was Hispanic, Martin was going for his gun saying you will die tonight... What would you have done? If you had followed the case; you would have agreed with the outcome

    July 14, 2013 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  18. Lara Carrier

    First, Zimmerman should have stayed in his own home. Watch......Neighborhood Watch.......NOT neighborhood go out of your home with a gun and confront another American. Becoming "Neighborhood Kill"! This 29 year old bully with a gun comes out of his home to confront and kill a teenager. This is not okay! If Martin was coming into Zimmerman's home, then I can see a "tragic event". This event was created with all kinds of violations. Zimmerman should have stayed home and called the police. Watch, Watch, Watch. Zimmerman took a human life, someones precious baby. Zimmerman is guilty! Justice was not served!

    July 14, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  19. Freedom fighter

    After serving 13yrs in the USMC. I now see that I fought for alot of idiots. Where was the big rucus when O.j. shot Nicole and was acquitted. Where was the rucus where a 17yr. old black teenager shot a white baby in the face. I am blessed to have served with the finest black Marines in my life but so many blacks in America need to get over racism. These few are giving a bad rap for all.

    July 14, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  20. Woman In California

    There are two kinds of justice. One from man and one from God. zimmerman made it through the first kind (no surprise there), but the second kind will have a very different outcome.

    July 14, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  21. M. Quezada

    Zimmerman had an agenda, he profiled Martin, pursued him, judged him and executed him, Zimmerman was the aggressor from the start, he snuffed a young life and will live to do it again.

    July 14, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  22. jbr

    The jury has issued a verdict. Why does the Obama WH want to get involved with a civil trial? Is this right or his place to be so biased? I don't know about all the rest of my fellow Americans but if Obama and Holder push this forward perhaps it is time for us to push back on the decision. They have gotten away with murder, spying on us without cause, abusing our Constitution, bypassing congress on getting approvals, enabling and providing military equipment and billions of $ to Egypt, Libya, Syria - not to mention Fast and Furious. When do we put a stake in the ground, stand up to these bullies and say enough is enough.

    July 14, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  23. Maria

    Tyrone are you really black, or have you been in the house to long? while we were in the field, I am proud of our president, and Zimmerman was not innocent, Zimmerman is a liar, a murderer, etc. he stalked Trayvon , zimmermen hated black people and I am sure he would hate you and do to you what he did to Trayvon, Zimmerman lied because he knew he had murdered Trayvon and Trayvon can not tell his side, Zimmerman is a racist and I hope the DOJ go after this racist, Zimmerman violated Trayvon civil rights, and I hope Trayvon parents sue Zimmerman for the wrongful death of their child.

    July 14, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  24. j

    It should be an outrage that people are put in jail for having dog fights but when a young Black youth is killed for doing nothing but defending himself, nothing happens and then the victim is blamed for his own murder.

    July 14, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  25. Arthur Lopez

    I am so glad that the Justice Dept has all this time and money to get not only Zimmerman but many others who have gotten away with murder such as OJ Simpson back in a Court room. If the Justice Dept, the President and the NAACP want to put Zimmerman back in court they better put all these other cases where civil rights are a concern. Of course maybe I'm wrong Maybe people like OJ can't be retried in Federal Court. Maybe Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman don't have civil rights because they are white. WOW wouldn't that be something.

    July 14, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
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