Saying "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," President Barack Obama on Sunday urged Americans to stay calm in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case and "honor" the slain teen's memory by preventing similar tragedies in the future.
"I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken," Obama said in a written statement released by the White House.
"I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son," the president said, calling Martin's death "a tragedy."
"We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis," Obama said. "We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin."
The statement shed little light on whether the Justice Department will press federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. But the department released a statement shortly after the president's comments saying that it was actively weighing whether to do so.
"Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate in accordance with the Department's policy governing successive federal prosecution following a state trial," the Justice Department said.
In March 2012, the president had famously urged Americans to come together and do some "soul searching" about Martin's slaying and underlined that "
President Barack Obama made a searingly personal plea on Friday for Americans to come together and do some "soul searching" after the shooting death of African-American Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman, noting: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
"My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we're get to the bottom of exactly what happened," Obama said in response to a shouted question in the White House Rose Garden.
Amid angry charges that race played a central role in the tragedy, Obama said "all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen—and that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened as well as the specifics of the incident."
The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it's conducting its own investigation into whether Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is from Peru, is guilty of a hate crime by targeting Martin, an African-American, on the basis of his race."I'm the head of the executive branch, and the attorney general reports to me so I've got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we're not impairing any investigation that's taking place right now," the president said.
"Obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened," the president said.
Obama's comments came just days after his chief spokesman, Jay Carney, had deflected questions about the incident, telling reporters "we're not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter."