Congressman Steve King (R-IA) suggested Sunday that George Zimmerman should never have even had to stand trial for killing Trayvon Martin, blaming President Obama and his Department of Justice for the case.
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace claimed that though “local authorities originally decided not to prosecute,” Florida prosecutors decided to after civil rights groups and “even the president stepped into the case.” King furthered this misleading claim and then lamented that Zimmerman even had to stand trial for Martin’s death.
WALLACE: Congressman King, let me start with you. Should George Zimmerman ever have been prosecuted?
KING: From what i have seen of the evidence, I would say no. My sympathy goes out also to the Martin family and the Zimmerman family for this ordeal that they’ve been through. The evidence didn’t support prosecution and the Justice Department engaged in this, the President engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law and order. I regret that this all happened. I’m sorry that it was turned into a race issue by the media. Otherwise, it would have been tried or not tried depending on the laws that were there. This is unfortunate.
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Wallace and King’s statements both confused what actually happened. After Zimmerman shot and killed Martin — an unarmed 17-year-old carrying only a package of Skittles and an iced tea — police initially did decline to charge him. While the U.S. Department of Justice did indicate that it would conduct a review of the case to determine whether there were an federal civil rights laws violated on March 20, the Florida state attorney sent the state case to a grand jury on the same day. Only three days later did the president weigh in, calling only for a full investigation and noting that if he had a son, “he’d look like Trayvon.” The federal investigation has been on hold while the state trial played out.
While the Florida jury ultimately found that the prosecution had not proven the case beyond all reasonable doubts, that does not mean there was not “probable cause.” King’s suggestion that a “not guilty” verdict proves that there should not have been an investigation or trial at all suggests a stunning disregard for the value of Martin’s life. But his — and Wallace’s — inference that there would not have been a prosecution if not for President Obama is flatly contradicted by the facts.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the case had been through a grand jury. Florida law does not require grand juries for second-degree murder cases.