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Petersburg prosecutor speaks out about Zimmerman verdict

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PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR) - The George Zimmerman murder trial is now over, but conversation has not stopped -- even in Central Virginia.

The opinions on Zimmerman's acquittal varied drastically in Carytown Sunday afternoon.  However, twenty-two years of as the top criminal prosecutor in Petersburg gives Cassandra Conover a more focused perspective on the trial than most.

"What counts in what happens inside the courtroom, not what happens beforehand," said Conover.

Conover has been the Commonwealth's Attorney in Petersburg since the early 1990's, and said she followed the Zimmerman trial closely.

"I don't like the result.  I'm disappointed because you have a person who admitted they shot and you have a person who was killed.  But I understand that if there is doubt there cannot be a conviction, and that is where the criminal justice system comes in," said Conover.

A portion of the dialogue following the trial has been about Florida's "stand your ground" law.  It gives a person the right to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger.  Multiple reports indicate the police did not initially arrest Zimmerman following the incident that took Martin's life because of this statute.

Virginia handles the issue of defending yourself through common law.

Conover said in Virginia a person has the right to defend themselves if they are being attacked.  The aggressor in any incident has the duty to retreat before defending themselves, Conover said, because that person initiated the incident.

Conover added many prosecutors she has spoken with agree that Virginia does not need a "stand your ground" law.

The national publicity of the Zimmerman-Martin case has sparked debate, anger, and protest for more than a year.  Conover said engaging in dialogue about the issues this case brings up is a good thing, especially if the public can focus on aiding the criminal justice system.

"We have violent crimes happening everyday.  This should be a wake up call that everybody needs to get involved.  I don't want to see the conversation stop now," Conover said.