Slain Teen's Parents On Capitol Hill

The parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin were on Capitol Hill, where House Democrats held a forum on "stand your ground" laws and racial profiling.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In Florida, state investigators are continuing their probe into last month's shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. His family and supporters want the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Martin to be arrested. Late this afternoon, Trayvon's mother, Sabryna Fulton, made a plea for justice in Washington, D.C.

SABRYNA FULTON: I would just like to say that, of course, my heart is broken. But it breaks even more to know that we have not gotten justice yet, and that this man has not been arrested for shooting and killing my son.

SIEGEL: Martin's family attended a forum on Capitol Hill called by Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee. Tamara Keith joins us now from the Capitol. And, Tamara, this was a forum. It wasn't actually a hearing of the committee. Is that right?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Yeah. It wasn't technically a hearing because Democrats are in the minority in the House, so they can't call a hearing. And Democrats are the only ones who are involved in this. And as far as I can tell, no Republican members of the committee showed up or attended this forum.

The topics were racial profiling, federal hate crimes and Stand Your Ground laws - Stand Your Ground law being a key part of this case here. But more than anything, it became an opportunity for members of Congress and the experts that they called to testify to express their feelings about the Trayvon Martin case and what it said about these larger issues. This wasn't about finding answers. It wasn't a fact-finding type of a hearing at all. It was really about expressing concerns.

SIEGEL: Trayvon Martin's parents were in the audience.

KEITH: They sat in the front row. His mom wore a black dress. His dad wore a shirt with a tie. And they weren't scheduled to testify, but when Congressman John Conyers, who's the ranking member of the committee, turned to them and asked them if they wanted to speak, they sort of tentatively went up to the microphone. Martin's father, Tracy Martin, spoke, mostly to express his thanks.

TRACY MARTIN: Everyone who's holding the legacy of Trayvon and making sure that he did not indeed die in vain, we just like to say thank you. And he is sadly missed, and we'll continue to fight for justice for him.

SIEGEL: And, Tamara, what did members of Congress have to say about all this, and was there any one message that came out of this forum?

KEITH: Yeah. I just have to say that this must have been really difficult for the family members who were there sitting in the front row. One person after another after another got up and spoke passionately about their son and the circumstances around his death. And at times, Trayvon's father, his eyes got red.

A couple of members of Congress said that they planned to introduce legislation. And almost everyone who spoke said that they felt that an arrest should have been made. And that also includes Frederica Wilson who's a Democrat from Florida and has been getting up on the House floor every day to talk about this case.

REPRESENTATIVE FREDERICA WILSON: No arrest have been made. And in my opinion, an arrest should be made. And I will not rest until an arrest is made. I will not stop beating this drum until we have justice for Trayvon.

KEITH: And other members were quick to point out that an arrest does not equal guilt and it would just be about probable cause.

SIEGEL: Now, as you've said, at this forum, the members were all Democrats. Have there been expressions of concern from Republicans about this case?

KEITH: Well, House Speaker John Boehner was asked about it today at a press conference, and he said that everyone's hearts go out to the family over this tragedy and that it was, in fact, a tragedy that has happened. But he says that the investigations that are happening at the state level and by federal officials are appropriate. And he just left it at that.

And it's also important to note here that this is still largely being handled at the state and local level. This is a case with national prominence, but the Justice Department is not taking the lead here. And there's really not much members of Congress can do right now, other than sort of what they did today, which is use their bully pulpit to bring more attention to the case.

SIEGEL: Ok. Tamara, thank you.

KEITH: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tamara Keith on Capitol Hill.

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