White House petitions call for federal charges against Zimmerman

Two White House petitions are calling for Attorney General Eric Holder to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, after his acquittal in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

One petition on the “We the People” website urges the Justice Department to prosecute Zimmerman for “depriving Trayvon Martin of his Constitutional Rights of Life and Liberty," and had more than 13,000 signatures as of 8 a.m. Monday morning. A second similar petition had more than 1,000 signatures.

ADVERTISEMENT
The petitions need to cross a 100,000 threshold to earn an official response from administration officials.

The petitions come after a Sanford, Fla., jury found Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager, not guilty on manslaughter and second degree murder charges.

Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense after an altercation.


The high-profile trial renewed debate over racial profiling and the nation’s gun laws and sparked anger from many Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups, who vowed to press the DOJ to take up federal charges against Zimmerman.

“This isn’t over with,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Sunday.

The Justice Department said Sunday it was reviewing the case in response to the ruling. 

“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, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial,” said Dena Iverson, a DOJ spokeswoman.

Holder, though, faces a tough decision, with some GOP lawmakers suggesting they believe the case should be closed after the jury verdict.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Sunday said the case should never have gone to trial and accused the DOJ and President Obama of politicizing the killing.

“The evidence didn’t support prosecution, and the Justice Department engaged in this, the president engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law-and-order,” said King.

Obama on Sunday called the death of Martin a "tragedy" but urged calm in response to the verdict. 

“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,” said Obama in a statement.

Obama did not comment on the calls for federal charges.