White House petition calls for federal civil-rights prosecution of George Zimmerman, attracts 15,000 signatures in less than a day
By David Martosko In Washington PUBLISHED: 15 July 2013
The administration has said it will review and respond to any petition signed by at least 100,000 people. That number was set at 25,000 until January. Its ‘We the People’ web page was an innovation embraced by Obama as part of his effort in 2009 to make the White House more accessible to online visitors.
It asks Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Zimmerman ‘for depriving Trayvon Martin of his Constitutional Rights of Life and Liberty … as swiftly and expeditiously as is possible.’
A similar petition – although a nonbinding one – from the NAACP has attracted nearly 300,000 signatures. That effort has been boosted by the multiple television appearances of NAACP president Benjamin Jealous since a jury exonerated Zimmerman on Saturday night.
Civil rights charges are generally reserved for defendants who represent government agencies, and who have been cleared by lower courts. Zimmerman, despite a desire to be a police officer, was acting on his own when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Although Zimmerman himself is Hispanic, media outlets have described Martin’s death as an example of unjustified white-on-black violence.
The neighborhood watch captain faced second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
Zimmerman’s attorneys successfully argued that it was a self-defense case of justifiable homicide.
Activists from civil rights groups and other politically liberal organizations have called on the Obama administration to use federal civil rights laws to prosecute him, despite the ‘not guilty’ verdict handed down by a Florida jury.
Attorney General Holder indicated in 2012 that the Justice Department would have to clear a “very high “barrier” before it could lodge civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
But during a speech to Rev. Al Sharpton‘s National Action Network, he assured the assembled black activists that ‘if we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action, and at every step, the facts and law will guide us forward.’
In a statement Sunday, the Justice Department said the criminal section of the civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida were continuing to evaluate the evidence generated during an earlier federal probe.
‘Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction,’ the statement read, ‘and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department’s policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial.’
Civil rights activists including Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson have openly called for the civil rights division to use its prosecutorial power.
‘We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation,’ a statement from the NAACP read.
‘Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.’
During an appearance Sunday on CNN, Jackson called for the DOJ to ‘intervene’ and ‘take this [case] to another level.’
‘I know this case has elicited strong passions,’ President Barack Obama said in a statement on Sunday.
‘And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2364294/White-House-petition-calls-federal-civil-rights-prosecution-George-Zimmerman-attracts-15-000-signatures-day.html#ixzz2Z8rMhjZm
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