In his first public comments about the not-guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, Attorney General Eric Holder did not promise specific action but said the Justice Department will ceaselessly work to ensure that justice is done.
Noting that his department is committed to fighting “stereotypes” that lead to violent episodes, Holder said he and the Justice Department shares the concern expressed over the outcome of the case.
“As we first acknowledged last spring, we have opened an investigation into the matter,” Holder said at the Delta Sigma Theta National Convention in Washington. “And we will never stop working to ensure that — in every case, in every circumstance, and in every community — justice must be done.”
Holder will also deliver the keynote address to the NAACP convention Tuesday, a timely venue for Holder to address the controversial verdict in the Trayvon Martin case.
The speech will take place at 4:30 p.m. at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., the Justice Department said Monday.
After Saturday night's verdict finding George Zimmerman not guilty of killing Martin, President Obama made the unusual decision to weigh in with a statement cautioning those upset by the verdict to respect the court's decision and calling on the nation to re-evaluate the nation's gun-control laws.
On Sunday, the Justice Department followed up by announcing that it is looking into the shooting death to determine whether the killing was racially motivated, which could trigger a federal criminal civil rights case.
Zimmerman, 28, had said he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense and the jury acquitted him Saturday. The case has drawn national attention to Florida's "Stand Your Ground Law," which allows people to defend themselves with force if they feel threatened in their home, business, car or a place where they have a legal right to be. At least 21 states have a similar law.
The Justice Department's criminal section of its civil rights division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Middle District of Florida are reviewing evidence produced during the federal probe, as well as evidence and testimony during the trial.
The NAACP responded to Saturday evening's verdict by pressing the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Holder's decision to initiate a review of the evidence surrounding the case guarantees that the case is far from over and will be making headlines for months to come.
In a message posted on the the NAACP's website Sunday, the group's president, Ben Jealous, declared: "We are not done demanding justice for Trayvon Martin."
Tuesday's speech will not be the first time Holder has waded into the national debate over the case. When speaking to the Detroit chapter of the NAACP in May 2012, Holder mentioned Martin by name and decried the violence and crime involving young people.
"The [violence] is an issue that has — rightly — garnered significant national attention in recent months, as our nation has struggled to make sense of the tragic shooting death of a Florida teenager named Trayvon Martin," Holder said at the time. "As this case moves through the legal system, Justice Department officials will continue to communicate closely with the state and local authorities to ensure that community concerns are heard, tensions are alleviated, and — as with every investigation at every level — appropriate actions are guided by the facts and the law."
Last month, Holder spoke to Rev. Al Sharpton's annual National Action Network convention and said Martin's killing is a "tragedy that we are all struggling to understand" and promised that Justice would act decisively if it discovered evidence the the teen's civil rights were criminally violated.
"Many of you are greatly — and rightly — concerned about the recent shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages," Holder said during that speech. "If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights issue, we will take appropriate action, and at every step, the facts and the law will guide us forward."
Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights who Obama nominated to become secretary of the Labor Department, and other Justice Department officials traveled to Sanford, Fla., where the killing took place, in late February to meet with Martin's family, local police and community leaders.