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Holder: We'll follow facts in Zimmerman probe

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Delta

Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Delta Sigma Thetas Social Action luncheon, part of the sorority's 51st National Convention in Washington. (July 15, 2013) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder called the killing of Trayvon Martin a "tragic, unnecessary shooting" Monday and said the Justice Department will follow "the facts and the law" as it reviews evidence to see whether federal criminal charges are warranted.

Meanwhile in Miami, a juror said Monday night that the actions of the neighborhood watch volunteer and Martin both led to the teenager's fatal shooting last year, but that George Zimmerman didn't break the law.

The woman known as Juror B37 told CNN's Anderson Cooper that Zimmerman made some poor decisions leading up to the shooting, but that Martin wasn't innocent either.

"I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into," said the juror, who is planning to write a book about the trial. "I think they both could have walked away."

In his first comments since Zimmerman's acquittal Saturday, Holden said the 17-year-old's death provides an opportunity for the nation to speak honestly about emotionally charged issues. He said the nation must not forgo an opportunity to better understand one another.

The attorney general's characterization of the killing drew strong applause from the audience at the 51st national convention of Delta Sigma Theta, the nation's largest African-American sorority. Holder's comments came on the same day that a delegation of New York City House members said they will push hard to see that the Justice Department pursues federal charges against Zimmerman.

"Trayvon Martin did not have a gun, a knife or weapon. All he had was a package of Skittles that set into motion the events that led him to be shot dead in cold blood," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn), at a news conference with other House members in front of the federal courthouse in Manhattan.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan), the ranking member on the House judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice, told those at the news conference that Zimmerman saw Martin as a threat "and that was being black and walking in the wrong neighborhood. The state of Florida failed to serve justice."

On Sunday, the Justice Department said it is reviewing evidence in the case to determine whether criminal civil rights charges would be brought.

The juror told Cooper Monday night, "I have no doubt George feared for his life."

The juror said that based on an initial vote, three -- including B37 -- were in favor of acquittal, two wanted manslaughter and one wanted second-degree murder. She said the jury started going through evidence, listening to tapes multiple times. "That's why it took us so long," B37 said.

The NAACP and others are calling on the Justice Department to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country protested the jury's decision to clear Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager.

Martin's family "should know there is a groundswell of Americans who want to do the right thing," said Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), at the Manhattan news conference. Later he said: "The U.S. Constitution protects people from profiling, whether it's race, religion or political. This is not just a black and Hispanic caucus issue."

He added, "I know when we get back to Washington, more representatives will come forward with their support, including Florida."

With Maria Alvarez

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