Zimmerman's lawyer works to dispel racial overtones in Trayvon Martin case

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 2:45am

(CNN) -- Whatever the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case, it will be viewed less as a determination of the shooter's guilt or innocence and more as a victory or loss for civil rights, George Zimmerman's lawyer fears.

Mark O'Mara said he has been busy trying to dispel the racial overtones in the case by getting out more evidence about his client.

His hope, he said, is that people will divorce a verdict from the real civil rights questions.

The civil rights issue

"The more people that consider an acquittal of George Zimmerman to be a loss for civil rights, the worse for civil rights," he told CNN's Piers Morgan.

A year ago, Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, shot Martin, an African-American teenager returning home after walking to a convenience store for a drink and a snack.

Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors say he ignored a police dispatcher's advice and was guilty of racial profiling.

The case drew national attention because police did not bring charges against Zimmerman for more than a month after the shooting, saying the circumstances required further investigation.

'Absolutely no racism'

O'Mara said the evidence will show that Zimmerman wasn't profiling. He said the FBI investigated the shooting and found "absolutely no racism."

"As a matter of fact, they found a lot of events and instances where George was what you might call an absolute nonracist," O'Mara said.

On February 26, 2012, Martin was walking back to the Sanford, Florida, apartment of his father's fiancee after picking up some Skittles and an iced tea at 7-Eleven.

That's when Zimmerman, then a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, spotted him walking through the complex.

What happened between then and when Zimmerman fatally shot the teen is subject to dispute, one that could be settled by a jury starting June 10, when Zimmerman is set to go on trial on a second-degree murder charge.

One night, two stories

The jury will have to decide between two starkly different versions of what happened that night.

Zimmerman told police that the two exchanged words and Martin went after him. According to his account, the teen -- who was unarmed -- punched him, forced him to the ground, and slammed his head on a sidewalk.

Zimmerman then shot Martin in self-defense, he claims.

Martin's family and supporters, though, have long had a different story.

One of the first to tell it was his father, Tracy Martin, who initially addressed reporters last March 8, trying to raise the case's profile and hike pressure on authorities. He and, soon, others suggested Zimmerman had targeted his son, an African-American youth wearing a hooded sweatshirt, because of his race.

A year later

During a vigil in New York City on Tuesday night to mark the first anniversary of his son's death, Tracy Martin pledged to continue the fight for justice.

"This is the one year anniversary of his death. It's a somber day for us, but its also a day of peace for us, because we know as parents we've done all that we can do to make our children's lives right," he said.

"The wounds have not been healed, but we're working on healing the wounds."

Up to the jury

O'Mara indicated at trial he will dissect the recording of Zimmerman's 911 call and point to evidence of the wounds Zimmerman said he suffered that night.

"I believe, you know, again, the evidence is what it is and that's for a jury to determine," O'Mara said. "But a close reading or looking at that tape and all the evidence that followed, particularly George's injuries and Trayvon's lack of injuries but for the fatal gunshot, suggest that George did not begin the fight, did not continue the fight and actually was the victim of the attack rather than the other way around."

But a lawyer for the Martins said the fight against "senseless gun violence" will continue.

"He went home and slept in his bed the night he killed Trayvon," attorney Benjamin Crump said. "And that wasn't equal justice."

Crump then led a chant of "Hoodies up! Hoodies up!" at the vigil.
 

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