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Posted at 3:50 p.m. on July 17, 2013
House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte won’t comment on a request from Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez to have a hearing on the Trayvon Martin case. In fact, Goodlatte says he hasn’t even read the Illinois Democrat’s letter yet.
“I have not looked at that letter yet, and I do not have any comment at this time,” Goodlatte said Wednesday. Pressed further on whether he thought it would be appropriate for the committee to hold a hearing on the killing of the Florida teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the Virginia Republican responded: “Thanks a lot. That’s all I have to say.”
On Monday, Gutierrez wrote a letter to Goodlatte 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.”
“That does not surprise me since the Republicans here in the House of Representatives have decided that gun violence in America is not an issue they care to deal with,” Gutierrez said.
He said he wanted hearings not to question the judicial process, but to ask whether the nation could do better than the laws that let George Zimmerman go free.
On Saturday, a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter in the February 2012 shooting death of the 17-year-old. The neighborhood watch volunteer argued he killed Martin in self-defense.
But Gutierrez said he doesn’t buy the story.
“Look: When a kid leaves his house to go buy some Skittles and a soda, and an armed adult kills him, and nobody is held responsible?” Gutierrez said, trailing off in disbelief. “Wow.”
“Stand your ground,” Gutierrez said mockingly. “Do you never retreat?”
In a Wednesday interview with MSNBC, Gutierrez, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, also addressed recent comments about the case from another member of Congress.
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said in a radio interview this week that with all the problems facing the United States, American should not get “hung up on this one case.”
“That’s the way the American law system works. Get over it,” Harris said.
But Gutierrez made it clear he was not over it.
“I think the Congressman from Maryland is totally incorrect,” Gutierrez said.
On Tuesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also weighed in on the case, saying, “without a shadow of a doubt,” the color of person’s skin doesn’t matter when it comes to justice.
“Lady Justice has a blindfold over her eyes because justice is colorblind. Justice shouldn’t look at the color of our skin or our ethnicity or our financial background,” Bachmann said. “Facts have to be recognized as facts. Law has to be recognized as law. … No matter if we are White or Black or Hispanic or Asian, whatever our background, justice must be served. That’s why we need to stand up and stand up for justice in this country, not have justice that is separate for Blacks or separate for Hispanics or separate for Whites.”
But Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus released a statement Wednesday that seemed to doubt the equal protection under the law that Bachmann lauded.
Fudge said it was “critical” that Congress “employ every strategy available to openly discuss the violations of justice and assumptions about race that led to the death” of Martin.
“Incidences like the Trayvon Martin tragedy occur much too often, but are never discussed,” the statement said. “We must get serious about acknowledging the impact racial profiling, gun violence and inequitable treatment under the law is having on our communities, and particularly on our young people. It is vital for healing in this nation and it is critical to putting policies in place that protect our future.”