Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Delta Sigma Thetas Social Action luncheon in Washington on Monday, July 15, 2013. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Attorney General Eric Holder called the death of Trayvon Martin
"unnecessary" Monday and vowed to proceed with a civil rights inquiry
after the acquittal of George Zimmerman.
In his first public
comments since Saturday's jury verdict in the racially charged case,
Holder told a convention of the nation's largest black sorority that the
federal government is "determined to meet division and confusion with
understanding and compassion - and also with truth.''
Department shares your concern. I share your concern," Holder told the
Delta Sigma Theta delegates to thunderous applause.
A jury in
Sanford, Fla., found Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second-degree murder
and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Trayvon, 17, in February
2012. Zimmerman, a Latino neighborhood watch volunteer, claimed
self-defense. Trayvon was black.
The shooting drew nationwide
attention, protests and claims of racial profiling as did the verdict.
NAACP leader Benjamin Jealous was among those who called Saturday night
for the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against
Since Saturday, more than 300,000 people have signed a
petition started by the NAACP on MoveOn.org calling on the Justice
Department to open a civil rights case against Zimmerman. Sunday,
Justice officials said they were reviewing the case.
provides yet another opportunity for our nation to speak honestly about
the complicated and emotionally charged issues that this case has
raised,'' Holder told the sorority delegates. "We must not - as we have
too often in the past - let this opportunity pass.''
The attorney general urged calm in recognition of Martin's parents "who have lost the most.''
suffered a pain that no parent should have to endure - and one that I,
as a father, cannot begin to conceive,'' Holder said. "Even as we
embrace their example and hold them in our prayers, we must not forgo
this opportunity to better understand one another and to make better
this nation we cherish.''
Discussing the federal investigation,
opened last year, Holder said authorities will "continue to act in a
manner that is consistent with the facts and the law.''
committed to standing with the people of Sanford, with the individuals
and families affected by this incident, and with our state and local
partners in order to alleviate tensions, address community concerns and
promote healing. ... And we will never stop working to ensure that - in
every case, in every circumstance and in every community - justice must
Delegates said they looked forward to the federal inquiry's conclusions.
life was lost,'' said Roxanne Booth, 52, a New York pastor. "To have an
acquittal is to say that life didn't matter. It does matter.''
Lannie Fountain, 79, a delegate from Georgia, said the trial lacked an important voice.
"I felt like nobody spoke for Trayvon Martin.''