POSTED: Sunday, July 14, 2013 - 8:56am
UPDATED: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 12:05pm
(CNN) — Leaders at the nation's oldest civil rights organization have spoken with senior members of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's team at the Justice Department about pursuing federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, NAACP president Ben Jealous said Sunday.
Speaking to chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union," Jealous said he hadn't yet spoken with Holder himself, but that in conversations with Justice Department officials, he had pressed the federal government to continue investigating the death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
"We are glad what they began months back continues, which is a serious reviewing of everything that came out in this case, everything that was known before this case," Jealous said.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Martin in February 2012, was acquitted by a jury late Saturday on state criminal charges. A federal civil rights investigation was previously opened in the case, and on Saturday a Justice Department spokesman told CNN the agency "continues to evaluate the evidence generated."
President Barack Obama, who spoke in personal terms about Trayvon Martin in the aftermath of the teenager's killing more than a year ago, did not publicly react to Saturday's verdict. A White House official referred to the Justice Department's statement when asked about the NAACP's calls for federal civil rights changes against Zimmerman.
On "State of the Union," Jealous argued those charges were a necessary step, given certain factors in the Zimmerman case.
"They will make a choice about whether or not they will pursue criminal civil rights charges. We are calling on them to do just that," he said. "When you look at (Zimmerman's) comments, when you look at his comments about young black men in that neighborhood, about how they felt specially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon."
Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pennsylvania, argued on CNN that a continued probe should also focus on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which was used in Zimmerman's self-defense argument.
"I think justice will be done eventually," Fattah said. "That is to say that there's a situation right now where a jury has ruled, but I don't think that we have seen the end of this, if there's a real problem here with what the Florida justice system has said about what is permissible for a person to do and get away with."
On Saturday, Jealous and the NAACP released a statement saying they were "outraged and heartbroken" over the not-guilty verdict, which the group's leader explained further in the CNN interview.
"We're upset with the situation in this country. As black parents raising black boys and black girls in this society, it feels so often that our young people have to fear the bad guys and the good guys," he said. "The robbers and the cops and the self-appointed community watch volunteer who thinks he's keeping people safer."