WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday that the White House will not play a role in any decision by the Justice Department on whether to file further charges against George Zimmerman, who was found not guilty by a Florida jury for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The not guilty verdict Saturday night sparked a renewed debate about race and justice, as well as prayers and street protests across the country, from marches in New York City’s Times Square to a blockade of the 10 Freeway in Los Angeles.
The Justice Department, which suspended an investigation into Martin’s death last year, has announced that it will continue its investigation to determine whether Zimmerman may have violated federal civil rights or hate crime laws.
Carney told reporters Monday that he was “not sure” if Obama had discussed the case with Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., but said the decision over whether to file a civil case against Zimmerman is “not something we do from here.”
Obama, in a statement released over the weekend, called Martin’s death a national tragedy, and he appealed for calm.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son,” Obama said. “And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis.”
Obama also commented on Martin’s death last year, famously saying, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
Carney said that Obama’s statements on Martin’s death aren’t indicative of his opinion on the ruling nor the specifics of the case.
“Everything that the president has to say was contained in that statement,” he said.
Holder, speaking Monday at a social action luncheon held by the largely African American Delta Sigma Theta sorority in Washington, D.C., told the crowd that “the Justice Department shares your concern. I share your concern,” in investigating the Martin case.
“We are resolved, as you are, to combat violence involving or directed at young people, to prevent future tragedies and to deal with the underlying attitudes, mistaken beliefs and stereotypes that serve as the basis for these too common incidents,” Holder added.
But beyond those pledges, Holder didn’t reference any specific charges that the department may bring against Zimmerman, nor a timetable for a decision to be made.