Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

Representing the 8th District of New York

Members Of NYC Congressional Delegation Seek Thorough DOJ Investigation & Potential Prosecution Of George Zimmerman For Civil Rights Violations

Jul 15, 2013
Press Release

New York, NY – Today, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (NY- 8), Charlie Rangel (NY-13), Gregory Meeks (NY- 5), José Serrano (NY- 15), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Nydia Velazquez (NY-7) and Yvette Clarke (NY-9) called upon the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a thorough examination of whether George Zimmerman violated our nation’s civil rights laws in killing Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, FL, was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter on July 13.  He was accused of killing Trayvon Martin, an innocent African-American teenager as he was walking home, unarmed, on February 26, 2012.

On Sunday, July 14, the Justice Department announced it is restarting its investigation into the case to consider possible hate crime charges against George Zimmerman.  In 2012, the Department of Justice launched a federal inquiry but suspended its investigation as the state criminal process commenced.

REP. JEFFRIES: “George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin, and then shot him dead in cold blood.  The continuation of the Justice Department inquiry is a significant step in the right direction.  Ultimately, a federal grand jury should decide if Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman because he was black in violation of our nation’s hate crime laws.”

REP. RANGEL: "I am deeply saddened and angered that George Zimmerman has escaped responsibility for the shooting of Travyon Martin.  The Justice Department should investigate whether there was a violation of our nation's civil rights laws in this case."

REP. MEEKS: “Our justice system and political system include processes and procedures by which citizens can continue to pursue justice for Trayvon Martin, including – as my colleagues and I are doing today – calling on the Justice Department, first, to review this case for civil rights violations; and second, to monitor ‘stand-your-ground’ laws to ascertain whether they are having a racially disparate impact.”

REP. SERRANO: “In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict we must take the opportunity to reevaluate our laws and examine our society’s prejudices.  One key first step is the Department of Justice’s important investigation into whether civil rights laws were violated in this case.  Above all, we have to work to ensure that no child of any color fears for his life when he walks in his own neighborhood.”

REP. NADLER: “As the Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, I, like so many Americans, have watched the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s senseless death very closely and with a deep, abiding sadness.  I am pleased that the Department of Justice has already announced that it will revive its on-going investigation and fully evaluate the evidence in this matter to determine whether separate Federal civil rights charges may be brought.  Such potential charges would be different than those brought under Florida state law.  I believe that such an investigation into possible Federal criminal civil right violations is well-warranted and I urge the Justice Department to move forward expeditiously.”

REP. VELAZQUEZ: “Trayvon Martin’s death is a tragedy for all Americans.  The Justice Department should swiftly investigate whether his civil rights were violated and if further action can be taken under existing statute.”

REP. CLARKE: “We know that Trayvon Martin would have been living today if George Zimmerman had not pursued him with a firearm.  I am disappointed that the laws of Florida have failed to secure justice for Trayvon and his family.  Our children are not safe if private citizens have the authority to act as vigilantes.  My prayers are with the parents of Trayvon Martin, who have demonstrated extraordinary courage in this awful tragedy."

A Justice Department prosecution under these circumstances is not without precedent.  For instance, subsequent to state level acquittals successful civil rights prosecutions were brought in matters that involved hate crimes against Rodney King (1993), Yankel Rosenbaum (1997), and Anthony Ramon Baez (1998).