The lawyer representing George Zimmerman on Saturday expressed regret that the case involving the former neighborhood watch volunteer charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin had divided the country along racial lines.
“Half of the country is going to be upset with the verdict. It's absurd,” Mark O'Mara told CNN in an interview. “And it's absurd that 75 percent of the people who were asked about whether or not George Zimmerman could get a fair trial a month before the trial started said 'no.'
“That should never happen in our country,” he added. “There shouldn't be 1 percent of our population who believes that anybody cannot get a fair trial.”
O’Mara’s interview, which was conducted on Wednesday, was aired as a jury of six women deliberated for the second day in the trial of Zimmerman, 29, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder in Martin’s death. The judge allowed the jury to also consider a charge of manslaughter before they began their deliberations.
Zimmerman, who describes himself as Hispanic, is charged with shooting Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012, after the African-American youth was returning to his father’s home in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and carrying a bag of Skittles candy and a canned soft drink.
Citing the "stand your ground" law, Sanford police originally did not charge Zimmerman.
The law, which allows the use of deadly force by someone who reasonably believes that they are facing an illegal threat, has come under further scrutiny because of the case.
Only after social media outrage and civil rights protests alleging racial profiling and discrimination did Florida Gov. Rick Scott appoint a special prosecutor, who brought the charges against Zimmerman six weeks after the shooting.
Jury deliberations in the case began Friday after nearly three weeks of testimony. Jurors also may consider a manslaughter charge against Zimmerman.
Regardless of the verdict, however, O’Mara said that Zimmerman would not emerge as a winner in the case — saying his life would “not [be] a good one.”
"He has to live mostly in hiding. He has to protect himself from that periphery that still believe that he's some racist murderer or acted in a bad way," O'Mara told CNN. "I think that he's probably concerned about living in central Florida and never having a normal life, and that's unfortunate. His life will never be the same."
The attorney said he had received dozens of e-mails from people "who are vicious in their hatred for George Zimmerman — and for me. It's absurd, but they're there.
“So, I don't know which is the one who's going to walk down the street at the same time George does,” O’Mara added. “They know what he looks like; he doesn't know what they look like."
He added that Zimmerman had been a mentor to black children and said that his high-school prom date was an African-American female.
“You didn't have to scratch very far below the surface to realize that George Zimmerman is an anti-racist," he said.
Still, the defense attorney said he had no regrets in taking the Zimmerman case in April 2012.
"It just seemed like it was perfect for me," O’Mara said. "And you overlay that with the social questions about the case, the racism questions, the way this case is being viewed — even the stand-your-ground law itself — it just met on literally all eight cylinders.
"Once I learned that George was significantly injured that night, and that he voluntarily complied with all law-enforcement requests — from interviews to voice-stress-analysis tests to walkthroughs — I knew that there was something here different than most cases," he added.
O’Mara praised Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Debra Nelson, who has overseen the case and is credited with moving it along swiftly.
"Even though the rulings did not go our way like I would like them to, she was always well-prepared,” he said. “She does her case-law research. She does her homework.
"You mention a case, she knows the case,” O’Mara added. “Those are the signs of a very good judge."
But in the meantime, O’Mara — like a better part of the nation — is playing the waiting game.
"I can't eat. I can't work. I just have to wait. It is the worst thing," he told CNN. "It's sort of like waiting for a child to be born or something. I don't think there's anything else you can do."
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