Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) issued harsh words over the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, arguing that a "young black boy" was put on trial rather than the man who killed him.
"Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he was not found innocent. All of the facts I think that I know, that I'm aware of, is that there was a young man walking in his neighborhood, walking to his house unarmed, and someone decided that he looked suspicious," Fudge said during an appearance on MSNBC.
"And now Mr. Trayvon Martin is dead, and what I could see of the trial, they put him on trial -- not Mr. Zimmerman," she added. "They put a young black boy on trial for being in his own neighborhood walking home from the store."
On Saturday a jury acquitted Zimmerman on charges of second degree murder and manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Martin. The decision sparked public outcry and widespread protests across the country in what was regarded by many as a racially-charged killing. The Justice Department, which put aside an investigation into Martin's death last year to allow the state to proceed with its case, said Sunday it will review whether federal prosecutors should file civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
Fudge said the verdict left her "disheartened and troubled," though she stopped short of calling the judicial system ineffective. Instead, Fudge said she felt the beyond reasonable doubt standard of evidence was a high threshold in Zimmerman's case, given the only witness was "the person who pulled the trigger."
She also criticized Florida's application of its Stand Your Ground law, under which individuals have the right to use deadly force to defend themselves in their dwelling, residence or vehicle if they have a "presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm."
"We also have to make clear to people that not only did Mr. Zimmerman have the ability to stand his ground and protect himself, [but] so did Trayvon Martin. He's being followed by someone, he has a right to stand his ground as well," Fudge said. "I think Florida has some very serious issues as it relates to this law."
Fudge highlighted a case last year in which a young mother in Jacksonville was sentenced to 20 years for firing warning shots in the air to escape an attack from her husband, against whom she held a protective order. "That says to me that there is a difference in the way we dispense justice between those who are African American or poor or minority than others," she said.
President Barack Obama reacted to the verdict in a statement Sunday, calling for "calm reflection" and a discussion around how to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that Obama will not get involved in the Justice Department's civil rights investigation, but felt it was important to weigh in on a case that drew national attention.
"The president wanted to convey that he felt that the death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy for his family, for a community but also for the country," Carney said. "And he wanted to note that in the wake of the verdict, the strong passions the case had elicited could be running even higher and that it was important to remember that we are a nation of laws and the jury had spoken."