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GOP congressman Harris on Zimmerman verdict: ‘Get over it’

Rep. Andy Harris (R) Maryland. (23930)
Rep. Andy Harris (R) Maryland.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, has some blunt advice for those protesting or focusing on last week’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

“We’re hung up on this one case, where this one fellow was, in fact, found not guilty by a jury. That’s the way the American law system works,” Harris said Tuesday morning in a radio interview. “Get over it.”

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin in February 2012, was acquitted by a jury late Saturday on state criminal charges. Large protests and petitions have since erupted around the country in opposition to the jury’s decision, with racial tensions as a major underpinning.

But Harris argued the trial got more attention than necessary.

“We missed the forest of the trees to a large extent,” he said on WMAL’s “Mornings on the Mall.” Harris added there were other “huge issues going on in the world,” namely unrest in the Middle East.

A federal civil rights investigation was previously opened in the case, and some are pushing for the Justice Department to bring federal charges against Zimmerman.

However, the DOJ needs to establish that a hate crime was committed, a legal burden Attorney General Eric Holder has said in the past would be a challenge to meet.

Asked about his thoughts should the DOJ decide to press charges, the two-term congressman from Maryland said Tuesday that such a move would be “purely political.”

“We would have to look at ways to rein in the Justice Department,” Harris said. “A lot people feel the Justice Department has run amok.”

A new survey from the Pew Research Center indicates a modest amount of Americans — 26% — were following coverage of the trial “very closely.” Notably, the story gained far more interest among African Americans, with 67% saying they watched at least some live coverage of the Zimmerman trial, compared to 38% of whites.

The same poll found that the shooting death of Martin and the subsequent trial attracted less interest than other racially-charged news stories in the past. According to Pew, 70% of adults in 1992 said they followed the Rodney King verdict and riots, and 48% said the same in 1994 about the O.J. Simpson trial.

CNN’s Ashley Killough and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.