Parents of Trayvon Martin to attend Capitol Hill event

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 27, 2012 11:54 AM
Parents of Trayvon Martin to attend Capitol Hill event

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin are due to attend a U.S. congressional forum in Washington on Tuesday that will look at racial profiling and hate crimes, Democrats organizing the event said.

The parents of the 17-year-old shot on February 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in a suburb of Orlando, Florida, are not expected to testify. But their attorney will speak, along with representatives of civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department.

Tuesday's event underscores how the racially charged case has become increasingly politicized in an election year. President Barack Obama weighed in last week in highly personal terms, saying that if he had a son he would look like Trayvon, a comment widely interpreted as implicit recognition of the case's racial overtones.

The shooting has sparked protests throughout the country and demands from civil rights activists and others for Zimmerman's arrest. Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, says he acted in self-defense.

The hearing by Democratic members of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will focus on racial profiling and hate crimes as well as state "stand your ground" laws that have broadened the definition of self defense to give people immunity if they use deadly force when they feel threatened.

Zimmerman told police that Martin had attacked him before he fired his gun, according to police. The Justice Department has launched an investigation, as have Florida state officials.

House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, was asked at a news conference on Tuesday whether the Martin shooting death investigation was being handled appropriately.

"Our hearts go out to his family over this tragedy," Boehner said. "Clearly what happened is in fact a tragedy. It's being investigated by state and federal officials, which I think is appropriate, and I think I'll leave it at that."

(Reporting By Donna Smith and Richard Cowan; Editing by Vicki Allen)