Interview with Representative Shelia Jackson Lee

Interview with Representative Shelia Jackson Lee

By John King, USA - March 19, 2012

KING: Not only are Trayvon Martin's parents furious about the conduct of the Sanford police. Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, wants the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, to launch a federal investigation.

She joins us now.

Congresswoman, thanks for being here.

Let me up front play it this way. I'm always a little skeptical when Congress tries to get involved in what is a local investigation. What convinces you that federal government needs to -- the attorney general needs to get involved and Congress needs to keep an eye on this?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Well, what you see is an outpouring of both sympathy and outrage by parents across America regardless of their color or background, because what they see is a child being in the line of fire.

It is OK to have a neighborhood watch, but not a neighborhood vigilante, and frankly the question has to be whether this young boy's life was taken and his civil rights denied and an ineffective investigation. Now, at this point, not knowing what will happen going forward has been waged if you will, no lie detector test, no detaining of Mr. Zimmerman, seemingly no extensive review of eyewitnesses who heard the shots, no analysis, at least to date.

This happened in February. This is now March 19. No analysis of that 911 call. Was it the young boy's call for help, a young boy who had nothing but candy in his pocket who was legitimately there, who was being judged because he wore a hoodie? The question to Mr. Zimmerman is, did you see him in the act of a crime?

And then the final axe is that the law enforcement -- and this has happened all over the country -- law enforcement has said do not follow him. Stay in your car. We're on our way. That would have been the appropriate vehicle to be able to address this young boy. And no parent should send a child for candy and a drink and wind up preparing for his funeral.

KING: And in terms of a jurisdictional issue, it sounds to me like you obviously don't trust how the Sanford police have handled this. Why shouldn't the next process be the Florida attorney general, somebody at the state level to look at this first? You think this should come straight to Washington as a potential civil rights case?

JACKSON LEE: Well, let me just say that I'm working with the congresswoman in that area, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who has been outraged, who been with the family members. The Congressional Black Caucus has called on it, other leaders.

But, again, I want to emphasize parents of all kinds have called upon -- and let me say this. I believe the investigation does not need to be mutually exclusive. Let the Sanford police show us what they can do. But I believe it is important to move that evidence, if you will, up to Washington, D.C.

And certainly we welcome the attorney general. This happened February 26. It is now March. They had a long enough time to see some of the failures of the investigation to say we will take a look at it. Not even a major investigation would take a look at -- this family is in pain.

I frankly believe, as I indicated, that I think this young boy, this deceased child, this active child that baby-sat for people, that played football, that had all of the life before him, every parent right now in the United States is probably wondering, can I send my child out no matter what their background is?

I think the Justice Department needs to be the final protector of the people of the United States of America.

KING: And this has become for better or worse a big story getting a lot of media attention, and the family is out there. Mr. Zimmerman, we have tried to reach his attorney and get him to come, get someone to speak for him. And he is presumed innocent. I assume you would agree with that...


JACKSON LEE: Absolutely.

KING: Here is what his father wrote in a letter to "The Orlando Sentinel."

"He would not last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."

And I want you to listen here. The issue here is the police department and their preliminary investigation. And what they're saying is that under Florida's self-defense law, they don't have any evidence to charge. Let's listen to the police chief.


BILL LEE, SANFORD POLICE CHIEF: Based on the facts and the circumstances and the stories that have been reported, I can certainly understand how they would jump to that or make those assumptions. I can assure you that the Sanford Police Department is conducting a fair investigation, no matter what the color of anyone involved in it is.


KING: Sounds to me like you don't trust the chief.

JACKSON LEE: Let me say this.

There are a lot of state laws, and I am quite familiar with Florida's very strong self-defense law, very strong self-defense law. But I am also aware that you have to question the motives and/or the tactics of the perpetrator or the individual who shot the gun. We now have a deceased boy who cannot testify for himself.

I don't believe even with this law that there was an extensive review of Mr. Zimmerman's actions. The Sanford police have to take some responsibility. They told him to stay put. We have had these kind of cases across America. The reason why I suggest that this is a civil rights case, no matter what background the individual has -- civil rights belong to all Americans -- is that sometimes a federal law has to say the protection of this child's life is superior to state law and federal law trumps state law in terms of protecting his life.

Did he have a civil right to walk on a sidewalk? That young boy was not caught behind someone's home coming out of a window, attacking someone. He was walking along a street. Do we not have rights of Americans, free access, free movement? The First Amendment guarantees us that. I believe it is a federal case. And I believe it is a case where we respect police authority and at the same time citizens have to be protected as well.

KING: Congresswoman, we hope you will keep in touch if the attorney general responds to your letter. We will follow this case as we go forward.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you, sir. 

Don't Govern on Fantasies
E.J. Dionne · November 10, 2014
Is GOP Ready for Obama's Attorney General Fight?
Michelle Malkin · November 5, 2014

John King, USA

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter