NEW YORK (TRNS) – Members of New York City’s Democratic congressional delegation gathered outside Lower Manhattan’s Federal District Courthouse Monday to back a potential Department of Justice civil rights investigation of George Zimmerman over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
A report published last week by the Miami Herald revealed FBI investigators found little proof Zimmerman was driven by racism in Martin’s shooting, the legislators assembled Monday insisted his motives be subject to greater scrutiny.
“We respect the jury’s verdict, but the state prosecutorial chapter has now been closed, and a new federal chapter has been opened.” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. “It’s at least my hope that that chapter will result in a consideration by a grand jury as to whether George Zimmerman violated our nation’s civil rights laws.”
Jeffries argued that a strong precedent exists for such action by federal investigators, and he referenced cases involving the beatings of Rodney King, Anthony Baez, and Yankel Rosenbaum as examples. In each instance, the police officers or suspects involved were first cleared of criminal charges before being found guilty on federal civil rights charges.
“A grand jury would not be unprecended,” Jeffries said, “and neither would a subsequent federal prosecution.”
42-year Congressional veteran Charlie Rangel said the death of Trayvon Martin touched on the fundamental rights of Americans.
“A part of what you’re entitled to, is to be able to walk the streets of this great country and not have someone predetermine your propensity to commit a crime, and to shoot and to kill you and to think that ends the story,” Rangel said. “No, my friends, this is the beginning of the story. Race will no longer be a word that we feel awkward in talking about.”
Congressman Gregory Meeks countered criticism that a Department of Justice enquiry would result in an arduous repeat of the recently concluded criminal trial against Zimmerman. Media coverage of the trial has been criticized for descending into sensationalism, despite netting record viewership figures for television networks such as CNN and Fox News.
“Is this trying the case all over again? The answer is absolutely not, because we’re talking about Mr. Martin’s civil rights violations. What we’re asking the Justice Department to do is look at the race issue,” Meeks said. “Race was not taken into consideration in this trial, and so now it should be.
“Justice has not been had because Mr. Martin’s race has not been considered.”
Regardless of congressional opinion on the matter, Attorney General Eric Holder will ultimately be responsible for deciding whether the Department of Justice will pursue George Zimmerman for civil rights violations.
(WATCH: Rep. Nydia Velázquez says the justice system doesn’t understand the outrage sparked by the Zimmerman trial)