A few hours after press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the White House is "not going to wade into a local law-enforcement matter," the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the FBI both announced that they will yield to requests to investigate the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
"The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation," said the DOJ in a statement.
Despite moving forward with the investigation, the Justice Department sought in the same statement to temper expectations: "With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids — the highest level of intent in criminal law."
One of the major impediments to an open-and-shut manslaughter case against Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, is Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which permits residents to "meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm."
Zimmerman told police that Martin attacked him from behind as he was walking back towards his truck, and it was fear for his life that prompted him to fire his Kel Tec 9mm handgun.
In addition to the DOJ and the FBI, Florida's state attorney, Norm Wolfinger, announced this morning that a grand jury will be called to investigate the case. "I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin," said Wolfinger in a press release. The grand jury will convene on April 10th.
Also this morning, ABC News revealed that Martin was on the phone with a female friend moments before he was shot by Zimmerman. The 16-year-old girl spoke with Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, and recalled their final conversation.
"He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man," the unidentified girl is quoted as saying. "I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not going to run."
The last thing she remembers is Martin trying to escape by running, but being cornered by Zimmerman who asked him what he was doing there. "Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell," she said. "I called him again and he didn't answer the phone."
In an effort to drive home the racial motivation behind Zimmerman's actions, Touré pointed to the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain's 911 call, where, at 2:21, it sounds as though Zimmerman is whispering "f*ckin' coons." After listening to Zimmerman's exchange with the emergency dispatcher, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof said he found "shades of 1950's Mississippi" in the tape.