Dear Attorney General Holder:
I am writing concerning the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla. I strongly support your decision that the Department of Justice investigate this matter. Considering the disturbing nature of the allegations and the horrible signal this act sends to African Americans about their safety, I urge you to dedicate the resources necessary to conduct a thorough and speedy review of all evidence and the ensuing local law enforcement investigation and take appropriate action.
As you know, Trayvon Martin, a 17 year-old, unarmed African American boy, was shot and killed while walking home from a local 7-Eleven. Trayvon was found with $22, skittles and a can of iced tea in his possession. The gunman, a volunteer neighborhood watch member named George Zimmerman, admitted to killing Trayvon, but claimed he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man who was charged in July 2005 with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer, was not taken in for questioning or even tested to see if alcohol or drugs were in his system, which could have impaired his judgment. Today, over three weeks after Trayvon’s tragic death, Zimmerman remains free.
Like many of my constituents and citizens across the nation, I am outraged by the way Trayvon’s case has been handled by the Sanford Police Department in Florida. It is apparent that those charged with protecting the citizens of Sanford have neglected their duty, and justice for this young, innocent boy has yet to be pursued by local authorities. I urge the Department of Justice to remain committed to thoroughly investigating the shooting death of Trayvon Martin so that justice is granted to him, his loved-ones, the community of Sanford, and our nation.
As a supporter and advocate for federal hate crimes statues, I encourage the Justice Department to investigate, if it is appropriate, this matter as a hate crime. In a 9-1-1 call prior to the shooting, Trayvon was profiled as “suspicious” by the shooter. This tragic case challenges the fairness and integrity of our nation’s legal system and if the racial aspect of the case is not investigated properly, we would be ignoring the law.
In addition, Florida was the first among 21 states to pass a so-called “Stand Your Ground Law,” which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a confrontation or fight. I urge the Department to investigate the apparent role this state law may have played in the failure to arrest the individual who admits to shooting Trayvon.
As a nation we cannot rest until the facts are obtained and appropriate actions are taken by our legal system.
Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Steven R. Rothman
Member of Congress