Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez wants a congressional hearing on how George Zimmerman could go free after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.
The Illinois Democrat sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., on Monday requesting a hearing as soon as possible on “whether justice has been done, whether the underlying law is just, and whether federal legislation could help avoid another tragic death like the death of Trayvon Martin.”
A Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the February 2012 killing of the 17-year-old.
“The murder of Trayvon Martin undermines the rule of law, erodes community trust in law enforcement, and exemplifies just how dangerous the combination of rampant fear and easily available guns can be,” Gutierrez wrote.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was carrying a gun at the time of the confrontation, said he acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed teenager; he said Martin was on top of him slamming his head into a sidewalk.
Gutierrez, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, wants to know why it took almost two months for the local police in Florida to arrest Zimmerman. He said there was a “widespread feeling” in many poor and working-class communities that the police are not there to serve them. Congress, Gutierrez said, needs to have an “open discussion” on how to grow cooperation between “local police and all sectors of the societies they protect.”
Gutierrez also used the letter as an opportunity to criticize immigration legislation that recently came out of Goodlatte’s committee — the Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act.
“The Judiciary Committee recently passed legislation you co-authored to drive an even greater wedge between local police and the communities they serve by turning all police into immigration enforcement officers and criminalizing millions of immigrants and their families,” the letter said.
Gutierrez called the combative relationship between police and society a “festering concern.”
He ended the letter with a call for more restrictive gun laws.
“There is no reason in a modern society to accept the sale, marketing, and widespread proliferation of guns as a means for killing other human beings and our laws should reflect that,” Gutierrez said.
He noted that it was a year ago this week that the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., took place, killing 12 and injuring 70.
“Day after day and month after month, gun violence is taking the lives of children in the City of Chicago at a horrendous rate,” Gutierrez’s letter said. “And yet, the House Judiciary Committee scarcely has anything to say about it.
“I respectfully ask that you lead us in examining the panoply of questions left unanswered as George Zimmerman goes free and the Trayvon Martin family mourns,” he wrote.
Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus have been at the forefront of pushing the Justice Department to prosecute Zimmerman on civil rights charges.