Attorney: Zimmerman “stressed” about charges in Trayvon Martin case
SANFORD, Florida (CNN) — George Zimmerman’s newly hired attorney told CNN’s “AC360” on Friday that he didn’t initially seek bond for his client because he first needed more time to become familiar with the case.
Mark O’Mara took on the case Wednesday, the same day Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was charged with second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
A bond hearing has been tentatively scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. April 20, O’Mara said.
“I think he’s stressed. He’s certainly nervous,” O’Mara said of Zimmerman. “He is frustrated he was charged at all.”
On Thursday, a Seminole County judge found probable cause to move forward with the case and set a May 29 arraignment.
Sanford’s pastors, meanwhile, stepped forward to urge reconciliation.
“We’ve been broken. There’s a lot of pain and suffering that’s touched many lives,” the Rev. Rory Harris, pastor of Holy Cross Episcopal Church, said at a news conference. “We need to overcome those things that separate us.”
Also Friday, the judge assigned to the case, Jessica Recksiedler, said she would entertain motions to disqualify herself from the trial after discovering that her husband works with Mark NeJame, an attorney whom Zimmerman approached about representing him and has since widely commented on the case in the media. NeJame also is a CNN contributor.
O’Mara said the association might become “more and more problematic” given the intense scrutiny the case is receiving.
Recksiedler said she would prefer any such request be filed before Zimmerman’s bond hearing.
O’Mara told CNN’s Piers Morgan late Thursday that one of his immediate goals is to “bring down the level of anger, animosity, just frustrations, emotions” that are on the periphery of the case.
O’Mara said there are two sides of the case, a legal one and a human one.
“We are going to try to bridge that if we can,” O’Mara said. “There are words that need to be said.”
Special prosecutor Angela Corey, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the case, said she will ensure that the judge or jury deciding the case will get only “the relevant, admissible evidence on which they can then base their decisions.”
“Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by pressure or petition,” she said.
Both the defense and prosecution said they have no intention of trying the case in the court of public opinion, though both conceded the extreme interest surrounding the case.
“I can’t imagine this case being tried within a year,” O’Mara told Anderson Cooper.
Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, has said he killed Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in self-defense after the teen punched him and slammed his head on a sidewalk.
Martin’s family believes Zimmerman, 28, racially profiled their son, who was walking back from a convenience store, and unjustly killed him after disregarding a police dispatcher’s request not to follow the teen.
Immediately after the shooting, Sanford police questioned Zimmerman and released him without charges. They said then that there were no grounds to disprove his account.
A prosecution affidavit of probable cause filed Thursday with the court offered few new details about what happened that night, although it appeared to offer some insight into how the special prosecutor views the case.
The document says Zimmerman, who lived in the community where the shooting occurred, was in his vehicle when he saw Martin “and assumed Martin was a criminal.”
It says Zimmerman felt Martin did not belong in the gated community and called police.
“During the recorded call Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated ‘these a**holes, they always get away,” and also said ‘these f***ing punks,’ ” the document says.
As the incident was unfolding, Martin was on the phone with a friend, the affidavit says.
“The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn’t know why. Martin attempted to run home but was followed by Zimmerman, who didn’t want the person he falsely assumed was going to commit a crime to get away before the police arrived,” it said.
The affidavit said that “when the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him. Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin, who was trying to return to his home.
“Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued. Witnesses heard people arguing and what sounded like a struggle.”
Calls to 911 captured a voice crying for help; that voice belonged to Martin, according to his mother; the neighborhood watch volunteer’s relatives have said the voice was Zimmerman’s.
One of the responding officers reported seeing a wound on the back of Zimmerman’s head, and surveillance video appeared to show an injury.
“Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. When police arrived Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin. Officers recovered a gun from a holster inside Zimmerman’s waistband.”
O’Mara said Zimmerman, who will plead not guilty, is worried about getting a fair trial in Sanford.
While O’Mara said he does not share those concerns, he told CNN the case may need to be moved out of Seminole County to get a fair and impartial jury.
Asked Thursday why his client had followed Martin, O’Mara told CNN sister network HLN, “I know so little about the evidence.”
O’Mara, who began representing Zimmerman just hours before he was charged Wednesday, said they had not yet discussed the facts of the case.
A member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, meanwhile, said Friday that he will ask the agency to investigate state “stand your ground” laws, such as Florida’s, that allow people to use deadly force if they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury.
“The Trayvon Martin case has raised serious and disturbing questions over whether these statutes allow an unacceptable component of racial bias into our justice system,” Commissioner Michael Yaki said. “Allegations that shooters like George Zimmerman may have ‘profiled’ their victims based on their race and that ‘stand your ground laws’ improperly protect race-motivated killings needs review.”
He added that there is not enough information on the laws and how they have been implemented.
CNN’s Marylynn Ryan, Chelsea J. Carter, Ashley Hayes, Martin Savidge and Vivian Kuo, and InSession’s Beth Karas, Jessica Thill and Aletse Mellado contributed to this report.