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George Zimmerman Trial: Opening Statements

George ZImmerman (right) with his attorney. (Orlando Sentinel)

SANFORD, Florida (CNN)-

Lawyers for George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, plan to ask the state to reimburse Zimmerman for at least $200,000 of expenses incurred during his trial.

Under Florida law, an acquitted defendant cannot be held liable for court costs or any charges while detained in custody, as long as a clerk or judge consents to the refund.

The costs may include money spent for expert witnesses, travel expenses and fees for transcripts.

“We’re probably going to ask for somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000,” lead attorney Mark O’Mara said.

But, O’Mara said, the chances are slim they’ll receive anywhere near that sum.

“We’re not going to get it. The case law here is quite limited. Even though we’re going to ask for it, the amount that we’d most likely get is significantly less.”

Such a request is fairly standard in the state. Casey Anthony, who was charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter, filed a similar request after her acquittal in a Florida courtroom in 2011.

While the final accounting is still being tabulated ahead of the formal request, the highest expense in the Zimmerman trial were the expert witnesses.

“We had to bring in four to five experts on the voice issue. That was as much as $75,000 to $100,000,” O’Mara said.

Transcripts ran approximately $20,000, he said.

However, under state law, any attorney’s fees would be exempt from such a refund.

O’Mara estimated the fees he would ordinarily have charged run approximately $1 million — fees that don’t include the amount that would have been charged by co-counsel Don West, nor others on the team that put together the successful defense.

“I haven’t gotten one penny in fees,” O’Mara said. “I do have an agreement with George that if he comes into money, I would get paid.”

Despite being currently unemployed, Zimmerman could potentially get income through other sources such as writing a book, or any money resulting from a defamation lawsuit against NBC News for airing an inaccurate editing of Zimmerman’s call to non-emergency dispatchers the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26, 2012.

In all, O’Mara estimated the total cost of defending George Zimmerman to be around $2 million.

Zimmerman was acquitted by a six-person jury in July on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

The high-profile case sparked a heated nationwide discussion of race as well as debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Martin was an unarmed black teenager, and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, called police after spotting Martin walking through the neighborhood. He followed Martin, against the directions of a dispatcher, and argued that he shot the 17-year-old after he and the teenager fought because he feared for his life. The prosecution said Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black, followed him and shot him during a confrontation.

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The George Zimmerman verdict sparked a debate that laid dormant in America: Would things have been different if Trayvon Martin was white?

Protest flared up around the country – and even anger, with some rioting in Oakland and LA.

The events made national headlines, in the forefront enough for President Barack Obama to address what it’s like for a Black man in America.

“And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on doors of cars,” said President Barack Obama during a press conference. “It’s happened to me.”

“I experienced all the above,” said James Shelby, President of the Greater Sacramento Urban League.

From the successful to the homeless, black men told us being that discriminated against is a common occurrence.

“It happens downtown on K Street all the time,” said an African-American man.

The automatic assumption: that with dark skin comes danger.

“Is racism alive in 2013? Yes, very much so, ” said Adrian.

Imagery that appears in rap videos like 2 Chainz’ “I’m Different” gives life to the stigma that Black men are criminals.

“I was wearing my baseball hat in a sport jacket in my office, [and] a woman told me I looks like a thug,” said James Shelby.

With the first African-American president of United States speaking out on racism, there’s no doubt a national conversation is underway.

Hopefully, slowly but surely America makes progress.


File photo
Courtesy: CNN


In unscheduled and unusually personal remarks, President Barack Obama tried Friday to explain why African-Americans were upset about last week’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin while lowering expectations for federal charges in the case.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told White House reporters in a surprise appearance at the daily briefing.

A Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman last Saturday in Martin’s February 26, 2012, shooting death, inciting anger among many who considered the incident racially motivated murder.

Obama issued a written statement on Sunday, noting that the jury had spoken and urging calm and reflection.

Speaking Friday without a teleprompter, Obama noted a history of racial disparity in law as well as more nuanced social prejudice that contribute to “a lot of pain” in the African American community over the verdict.

“There are very few African-American men in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they are shopping at a department store. That includes me,” the president said.

“There are probably very few African-American men who have not had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me – at least before I was a senator,” he continued.

“There are very few African-Americans who have not had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had the chance to get off. That happens often,” he said.

Saying he didn’t intend to exaggerate those experiences, Obama added that they “inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

“The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a history racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws, everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws,” he said. “And that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.”

African-Americans feel the context of the Martin killing is little known or denied, “and that all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario that, from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different,” Obama said.

These cases usually matter for states

At the same time, Obama responded to calls by civil rights groups for federal hate crimes charges to be filed against Zimmerman by saying the Florida legal process had reached a verdict.

“Once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works,” the president said, later adding that while Attorney General Eric Holder was looking further at the case, those calling for federal charges must “have some clear expectations here.”

In America, law enforcement and the criminal code are “traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal level,” he said.

On Saturday, “Justice for Trayvon” vigils are scheduled outside federal buildings across the country by Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

Sharpton called Obama’s remarks Friday “significant and much needed,” saying in a statement that the president “set a tone for both direct action and needed dialogue.”

Obama said demonstrations and other responses to the Zimmerman verdict must be non-violent or they will dishonor what happened to Martin and his family.

He outlined possible future steps, calling for the Justice Department, state governors and city mayors to work with law enforcement agencies “about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists.”

For example, he noted that racial profiling legislation he pushed as a state senator in Illinois helped police departments think about the issue and act more professionally, which helped build trust with communities they serve.

Stand your ground laws

Obama also called for reconsideration of “stand your ground” self-defense laws in Florida and other states, that he said “may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations.”

Sharpton and other civil rights leaders call for abolishing the “stand your ground” laws.

“If we’re sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there’s a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?” Obama asked.

To supporters of such laws, Obama said they should consider if the right to fight back with a gun would have applied to Martin.

“Do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?” the president said. “And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, then it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”

While rejecting any “grand new federal program,” Obama also called for providing more support for African-American boys and young mans who disproportionately end up in prison or homicide victims.

No national conversation

However, he rejected calls for him to launch a national conversation on race, saying “I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when, you know, politicians try to organize conversations.”

His comment could have been a slap at his own response to the 2009 arrest of African-American university professor Henry Louis Gates by a white police officer responding to a report of a possible burglary at his Boston-area home.

After coming under criticism for saying police acted stupidly, Obama later invited the Harvard professor and the arresting officer for a beer at the White House.

On Friday, Obama instead endorsed “soul-searching” discussions in homes, churches and workplaces where people might be more honest about whether they were “wringing as much bias” out of themselves as possible.

“As difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better,” the president concluded, making a reference to his daughters’ generation.

“It doesn’t mean we’re in a post-racial society. It doesn’t mean that racism is eliminated,” he said. “But, you know, when I talk to Malia and Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are. They’re better than we were on these issues. And that’s true in every community that I’ve visited all across the country.”

By Tom Cohen

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Window after window in downtown Oakland is broken and boarded up.

It’s not at all how business owners hoped to see the ongoing fight for justice for Trayvon Martin take shape.

The man who killed Martin, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the case Saturday by jurors in Florida.

Martin was walking from a store to his dad’s Sanford, Florida home when Zimmerman started following and eventually struggled with the teen he felt met the description of area burglary suspects.

Don Schnetz’  ‘Flora’ restaurant and ‘Fauna’ bar are once again open as they have been for six years,  but with very obvious bruises.

Protesters denouncing the Zimmerman verdict  smashed through several large windows.

An employee there, bruised as well, after being hit in the face with a hammer while trying to protect the business from the angry crowds.

Oakland’s interim police chief, Sean Whent, said Tuesday he didn’t expect the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case to come in over the weekend, so extra resources weren’t immediately on-hand to handle the emotional and destructive outbursts.

Reaction to the vandalism is mixed.

“Doesn’t mean that I necessarily think it’s the greatest thing in the world, but I think we’re losing sight of the fact that people are upset about some it’s righteous to be upset about, that a boy was killed, said Harjit Gill.

He’s called Oakland home for six years.

As for Don Schnetz, now may not be time to put this all behind him just yet.

He’s waiting to call a window repair service.

“I don’t know if it makes sense to put’em back now. We’ll just have to wait and see. It seems like uh… it’s obviously not over yet,” he said.

Local News

What’s Next for George Zimmerman?


High-profile defendants in criminal cases who are found not guilty have varying degrees of success living in freedom after their trials.  OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson and Casey Anthony are a few cases that come to mind.  Now George Zimmerman is facing the trial of public scrutiny after being found not guilty of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

In these early days after the criminal trail, there is a ground swell of public outrage over the verdict.  This Saturday, civil rights leaders are calling for a Justice for Trayvon National Day of Action.  Demonstrations are planned for more than 100 cities nationwide.

Zimmerman should disappear from the public eye for a while, according to Doug Elmets, a crisis communication strategist interviewed by FOX40 in Sacramento on Monday.  But after some months have past, there are steps Zimmerman could take if he wants to reemerge into society.

“For example, if Oprah were to invite him to do an interview, be interviewed by Oprah and answer the tough questions,” said Elmets.  “He needs to meet potentially with the African American community.  He needs to dispel the notion that he did this intentionally.  And over time, he might be able to manage this.”

Elmets said it is unlikely Zimmerman would try to change his name or appearance.  In today’s media age, completely disappearing from public view is difficult.

Friends of Zimmerman told Reuters News after the verdict that he has expressed an interest in going on to law school.  He may still face a civil trial.

George Zimmerman Trial: Opening Statements

Zimmerman (right) and his attorney, Don West. (Orlando Sentinel)

SANFORD, Florida (CNN)-

One of the six women who served on the jury that acquitted George Zimmerman will be writing a book about her experiences, literary agent Sharlene Martin said Monday.

“My hope is that people will read Juror B37’s book, written with her attorney husband, and understand the commitment it takes to serve and be sequestered on a jury in a highly publicized murder trial and how important, despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is to follow the letter of the law,” Martin, president of Martin Literary Agency, wrote in a statement.

“It could open a whole new dialogue about laws that may need to be revised and revamped to suit a 21st Century way of life,” Martin said.

Jurors were not identified by name during the trial, so the identity of the would-be author was not immediately apparent.

However, according to HLN, CNN’s sister network, juror B37 has been married 20 years, has two adult children and once had a concealed weapons permit. She has lived in Seminole County, Florida, for 18 years and volunteers for animal rescue groups, according to HLN.

In addition to exploring Florida self-defense laws, gun control and race relations, the book will show readers “why the jurors had no option but to find Zimmerman not guilty due to the manner in which he was charged and the content of the jury instructions,” Martin said.

Martin has handled a number of other controversial high-profile books, including “If I Did It,” the book written by O.J. Simpson, but acquired by the family of murder victim Ronald Goldman, detailing how the killings of Goldman and Simpson’s former wife Nicole Simpson might have been committed.

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Eric and Bethany chat with Dr. Charles Williams, a psychology professor at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, with a look at what’s driving the anger surrounding the Trayvon Martin murder case.

A Sacramento attorney talks to Marin Austin about his reaction to Saturday’s ruling, and what is next for George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin’s family.

Kimberly Easton reports from Downtown Sacramento, where a candlelight vigil for Trayvon Martin took place Sunday night.