Congressman Steve Cohen is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to consider federal hate crime or other civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, joining the Congressional Black Caucus and NAACP in their cause.
This action comes hours after a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of killing teenager Trayvon Martin last year. Cohen says in an email statement that he is disappointed in the justice system "allowing an undisputed killer to walk free."
"I will request that the Department of Justice fully consider federal hate crime or other civil rights charges against George Zimmerman," continues Cohen, "We have a responsibility to protect the safety of all people in this country and the vigilantism that led to the death of an unarmed teenager must not go unpunished."
Cohen recalled when he pursued similar action in a Shelby County case. Dale Mardis was charged for the 2001 murder of Shelby County Code Inspector Mickey Wright and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Cohen says, "I requested an investigation by then-FBI Agent-in-Charge My Harrison that led to a federal indictment by U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton III and a subsequent guilty plea that will keep the murderer behind bars for the rest of his life."
The congressman says civil rights charges may be difficult to pursue with the Zimmerman case but believes hate crime charges are possible.
"It also might be difficult but there's a history of actions that he took, 'These guys always get away,' actions and statements he made in the past about people he followed," says Cohen, "Whether that can be put together under the totality of the circumstances to show that this case was a hate crime or not is something the justice department will have to decide."
He says a man's death should not go without justice. Cohen says race is not a new route of finding justice for Martin's death, but something that was always a factor.
"Race was always involved, and I think race was in George Zimmerman's mind," he says, "I think that's why he was suspicious of Trayvon Martin. The facts will take the justice department where they are."