As more demonstrations are being planned in protest of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, members of New York's congressional delegation said Monday that there are precedents for the federal government to follow up with its own investigation.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn and Queens joined fellow House members Charles Rangel and Gregory Meeks in calling on the U.S. Department Of Justice to conduct an investigation into the 17-year-old's death.
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“We respect the jury's verdict but the state prosecutorial chapter has now been closed and a new federal chapter has been opened,” Jeffries said.
According to Jeffries, there is precedent for federal prosecutors pursuing their own case. In particular, he cited the police officers who faced federal charges after they were acquitted in California State Court for the beating of Rodney King.
Lemrick Nelson also faced federal civil rights charges for the fatal stabbing of Yankel Rosenbaum in the racially-charged Crown Heights riots in New York City more than 20 years ago.
In addition, New York City Police Officer Francis Livoti, who was not convicted in Bronx State Court for the 1994 strangling death of Anthony Baez, later went to federal prison for a civil rights violation.
“You know, if that was the only time or the first time that something like this had happened, perhaps you wouldn't see the outpouring of emotion that you see not only at this press conference, but throughout our nation,” said Rep. Jose Serrano of the Bronx. “But it happens too often.”
Second Night Of Rallies Held In Manhattan
Protesters upset about the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman rallied for the second straight night in Manhattan.
A group gathered again in Union Square to voice their dismay over the verdict Monday night. They said they want their rallies have one specific purpose.
“It will send a very strong message that people all over this country and the world do not accept the cold-blooded lynching of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman,” said protester Travis Morales.
Further downtown, a group of just under 100 protesters rallied on the steps of the Federal Court House in Foley Square.
Protesters there said they wanted to add their voices to the call for justice.
“It really breaks my heart that it feels like the system has failed us once again and it feels like so many people of color continue to face this bitter reality time and time again. And I just feel like we have to band together and it's beautiful to see us all coming together and being a part of something that's bigger than ourselves,” said protester Brittney Finnell.
More demonstrations are planned across the country this weekend.
The Reverend Al Sharpton said prayer vigils will be held at federal buildings in 100 cities on Saturday to call for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
The NYPD says 15 people were arrested at several different related rallies and protests held throughout the city Sunday in reaction to the verdict, and most were charged with disorderly conduct.
Federal Officials Discuss Possible DOJ Investigation
Speaking in Washington to the Delta Sigma Theta convention on Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder said Martin's death was both tragic and unnecessary.
Though Holder would not commit to any additional prosecution, he let people know in his remarks on Monday that federal civil rights charges are a real possibility.
“I want to assure you that the department will continue to act in a manner that is consistent with the facts and the law,” said Holder. “We are committed to standing with the people of Sanford, with the individuals and families affected by this incident.”
“We must not – as we too often have done in the past, let this opportunity pass,” Holder continued. “I hope that we will approach this necessarily difficult dialogue with the same dignity as those who have lost the most – Trayvon's parents, have displayed over the past year.”
Also on Monday, the White House said President Barack Obama will not involve himself in the Justice Department's decisions.
“He wanted to note in the wake of the verdict – the strong passions the case had elicited could run higher. And it was important to remember that we are a nation of laws and that a jury had spoken. He also wanted everyone to heed the call for calm reflection from Trayvon Martin's parents,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.
The Justice Department has already announced that it is reviewing the case, but by Monday night a timetable for how long it will take was not known. There is also no guarantee that charges will be brought.
Experts say the federal government would need to know it can win the case before going forward.