Eric Holder Speaks About Trayvon Martin Investigation
Attorney general says action will be taken if Justice Department finds civil rights violations
Charges in the Trayvon Martin case could come from the nation’s top law enforcement authority, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday.
Speaking to an audience at the National Action Network convention in Washington, Holder said the department is conducting an independent review in the shooting death of the 17-year-old Miami student, which has not resulted in the arrest the confessed shooter, George Zimmerman.
The Department of Justice launched its investigation three weeks ago, pledging to explore evidence that Zimmerman, who pursued Martin against the advisement of Florida law enforcement, may have racially profiled the teen.
From an Associated Press report:
"I know that many of you are greatly — and rightly — concerned about the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages…
"If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," said the attorney general. "I also can make you another promise: that at every level of today's Justice Department — preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority."
Justice Department official Tom Perez and U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill from Florida have traveled to Sanford to meet with the Martin family, members of the community and local authorities, Holder said.
On Feb. 26, Zimmerman claimed self-defense in the shooting death of the unarmed Martin. The 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer spotted the teen in a Sanford, Fla. gated community and confronted him, possibly hoping to intercept a potential burglary attempt. The neighborhood had experienced a rash of burglaries, in which residents claim the perpetrators were all young, African American males.
A fight ensued between the teen and Zimmerman, who, through his former attorneys and through family members, said he believed his life was in danger.
Zimmerman shot Martin, who had a bag of Skittles candy and an iced tea beverage in his possession. Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law protects Zimmerman from murder charges because of his claim of self-defense. Many questions have been raised about the Sanford Police Department’s application of the law.
National Action Network founder Rev. Al Sharpton, and several other prominent civil rights leaders, have questioned the circumstances of the case, given the race of the two at the center of it.
Martin, a black student from Miami, was serving out a school suspension with his father, Tracy, who lives with his girlfriend in the Sanford neighborhood.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, has been dogged by allegations of racial profiling.
Legal analysts and attorneys for the Martin family have said they do not expect Florida or federal law enforcement officials to reach that conclusion. The burden of proof is much higher for hate crimes. The family has consistently said they’d like to see Zimmerman arrested and then allow the justice system to work out the rest.
View video of Holder's remarks at NAN: