Next for Zimmerman: safety concerns, Justice weighing civil rights case
The Justice Department said Sunday that it will review the George Zimmerman case for possible civil rights violations, after a jury acquitted the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, while Zimmerman’s attorney says his client’s safety is at risk.
NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous started the drive by posting a petition Sunday morning on the website MoveOn.org that is addressed to Attorney General Eric Holder.
“The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin,” Jealous wrote in the petition.
The Justice Department has already been reviewing the handling of the criminal case in which Zimmerman, a Hispanic, fatally shot Martin, a black teen, in February 2012, raising concerns about such issues as racial profiling and equal justice.
“The Department of Justice’s Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation continue to evaluate the evidence generated during the federa investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial,” the Justice Department said in a statement Sunday. “Experienced federal prosecutors will [now] 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.”
A all-female six-member jury announced late Saturday that it found Zimmerman ‘not guilty’ of all counts against him, which included charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Jealous told CNN’s “State of the Union on Sunday morning, “There is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why (Zimmerman) targeted young Trayvon.”
He also said he has not spoken directly with Holder but has spoken to his senior people.
“We are glad that 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.
Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the Justice Department to review federal charges against Zimmerman.
“I think the Justice Department is going to take a look at this,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This isn’t over with and I think that’s good.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton on the same show condemned the “stand your ground” law under which Zimmerman won acquittal, adding of his plans, “I will convene an emergency call with preachers tonight to discuss next steps and I intend to head to Florida in the next few days.”
Meanwhile, Mark O’Mara, who defended Zimmerman at trial, suggested his client’s safety was at risk. “There still is a fringe element that wants revenge,” O’Mara said. “They won’t listen to a verdict of not guilty.”
In August 2012, O’Mara said Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had been living like hermits and weren’t working because they feared for their safety.
After Saturday’s verdict, police, officials and civil rights leaders urged peace and told protesters not to resort to violence.
Demonstrators across America rallied against Zimmerman on Sunday. Most of the protests were peaceful, but in cities like Oakland, Calif., there were reports of vandalism.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Sunday.