Parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin to appear on Capitol Hill

SANFORD, Fla. - That George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is not in dispute. Everything else is -- from the circumstances, to the motivation -- sparking a national debate about race, and coast-to-coast demands for justice.

On Tuesday, lawmakers take up the issue when the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on racial profiling and hate crimes. Martin's parents are expected to attend.

Ahead of the hearing, protesters plan to march to the White House demanding a federal investigation. A CNN/ORC International poll has found that nearly three-fourths of Americans -- including 67% of whites and 86% of non-whites -- believe Zimmerman should be arrested.

From the halls of Capitol Hill to the streets of America's cities, the case has generated widespread outrage -- attitudes on display Monday in more than dozen cities, from Atlanta to San Francisco.

Many demonstrators wore hooded sweatshirts and carried Skittles candy -- just like Martin had, on the night he was killed.

In the central Florida city of Sanford, where Martin lost his life, a regularly scheduled city commission meeting turned into a forum focused on the case.

Near its start, Rev. Al Sharpton presented a petition that he said had been signed by 2 million people calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

He was one of several speakers who demanded answers from a police department that they felt bungled the case.

"The Sanford police department needs to be held accountable," said an emotional Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father.

Martin's family and supporters have said that they believe race played a role in the shooting.

Martin is African-American; Zimmerman is a white Hispanic.

The shooter's family says he has been mistakenly portrayed as racist.

On Monday, Martin's supporters continued to insist the teen would be alive if Zimmerman, 28, had simply followed a 911 dispatcher's instructions to stay away.

"We're dealing with a self-appointed watchdog who disobeyed the dispatcher's instructions that he agreed to," said Sharpton. "All else is irrelevant."

That includes, he added, reports that first surfaced Monday in media accounts -- and later confirmed by a family spokesman -- that Martin had been suspended from school for 10 days after a search of his book bag turned up an empty plastic bag with marijuana residue.

Martin, who lived in Miami, was visiting Sanford during the suspension.

"The only comment that I have right now is that they've killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation," Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said.

Benjamin Crump, the family attorney, said authorities were trying to "demonize" the teen.

"Whatever Trayvon Martin was suspended for had absolutely no bearing on what happened on the night of February 26," he said.

Likewise, Zimmerman's lawyer has said that once all the facts surface, the incident will not appear as clear-cut anymore.

Indeed, developments on several fronts Monday added to the complexity of the shooting.

In his account to police, Zimmerman said he was on his way to the grocery store when he saw Martin walking through his gated community, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

"Something's wrong with him," he told a 911 dispatcher, according to the contents of a call released last week. "Yep. He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands."

The teen started to run, Zimmerman said. When he said he was following the boy, the dispatcher told him, "We don't need you to do that."

Zimmerman, according to the Sentinel report, later told police that he lost sight of Martin and was returning to his SUV when the teen approached him.

The two exchanged words, according to Zimmerman, who said Martin then punched him in the nose.

On the ground, Zimmerman said he was repeatedly punched and had his head slammed into the sidewalk, according to the Sentinel report. He began yelling, he told police.

Previously released tapes of 911 calls included neighbors saying they had heard hearing screams -- though it wasn't clear whether they came from Zimmerman or Martin.

When police arrived, Zimmerman's "back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass (and he) was also bleeding, from the nose and back of his head," according to a police report.

Zimmerman was questioned, but has not been charged in the case.

The Orlando Sentinel cited "authorities" as the source of its information.

While Sanford police condemned the "unauthorized leaks," it said the newspaper account "is consistent with the information provided to the State Attorney's office by the police department."

But witnesses presented a different account of what transpired.

Mary Cutcher told CNN that she and Selma Mora Lamilla were in a kitchen nearby when they "heard a whining,

someone in distress, and then the gunshot."

They ran outside and, "within seconds," were about 10 feet away from Martin's body, Lamilla said.

"(Zimmerman) was standing over the body, basically straddling the body with his hand on Trayvon's back," said Cutcher, adding that they called three times to him before he finally asked them to call police. "It didn't seem to me that he was trying to help him in any way."

And Martin's girlfriend was on the phone with him prior to the shooting, Crump said.

That "completely blows Zimmerman's absurd self-defense claim out of the water," he said.

At the scene of the shooting, police found Martin "laying face down in the grass," according to an incident report.

A short time later, he was pronounced dead.

Another family attorney, Natalie Jackson, said any jury that sees the evidence in the case would convict Zimmerman.

"Clearly, the investigation in this case was either bungled, or ignored completely," sahe said of the initial police inquiry.

Sanford authorities say they could not arrest Zimmerman under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves anywhere they feel a reasonable fear of death or serious injury.

The evidence police had at the time didn't allow for an arrest, they said.

Now, Sanford's city manager, Norton Bonaparte is seeking an outside review of the police department's handling of the case.

In addition, a special prosecutor is investigating the case.

A grand jury is scheduled to begin deliberations April 10, but it is uncertain if the group will ever work on the case.

The prosecutor, Angela Corey, said on HLN that she has never used a grand jury to decide on charges in a justifiable homicide case.

"We do a thorough investigation. We make that decision ourselves," she said.

The state's governor has also formed a task force to review the state's "stand your ground" law. The Justice Department is also investigating.

As controversy swirls, Zimmerman is in hiding, afraid for his safety, a friend, Joe Oliver, said.

The separatist New Black Panther Party, described as a hate group by a civil rights organization, has offered a $10,000 bounty for the Zimmerman's "capture," despite vehement opposition from, among others, Martin's family.

Meanwhile, a New Orleans police officer was suspended without pay Monday for insensitive remarks he posted about the death.

"Act like a Thug Die like one!" Officer Jason Giroir wrote on the website of CNN affiliate WWL, under a news story on the case.

"To say that I'm angry is an understatement. I'm furious," Superintendent Ronal Serpas said, in announcing the suspension.


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