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Jury Deliberates in George Zimmerman Case; Interview With Mark O'Mara

Aired July 12, 2013 - 15:00   ET


CECIL SMITH, SANFORD, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: As the sheriff has indicated, we have worked together diligently for the past months to put together a plan to ensure the safety of Sanford and our surrounding communities.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's a trying time for all of us. We're not sure what the verdict is going to bring out. But at the same time, it's a great opportunity for evolution within the Sanford community and showing how we as a community can involve -- or evolve to do better and be better, to ensure that we have an opportunity to speak our piece peacefully, to come together peacefully.

And when you leave here, you leave here peacefully. There is nothing on the horizon for us other than to move forward. The family has also asked the judicial system to run its course, and that's exactly what we're asking other people to do, allow the judicial system to run its course. And we will move forward from here. Thank you and have a great afternoon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: So you can see their concern locally from the Seminole County sheriff and also from the Sanford, Florida, police chief that there could be some unrest following the verdict.

I think it's safe to say certainly concern if George Zimmerman is acquitted that there could be folks in that community who are very upset about this, many people who really fought to try to make sure that this trial happened, as, initially, it didn't appear to be going in that direction.

Now, on a national level, we have also heard some warnings from, for instance, civil rights activists and Minister Jesse Jackson. He said: "We seek justice, not revenge, from the American judicial system. If Zimmerman is convicted, there should not be inappropriate celebrations, because a young man lost his life. And if he is not convicted, we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies. Self-destruction is not the road to reconstruction."

Let's bring in Don Lemon on this.

There is a tremendous amount of concern, and you're seeing a lot of folks who are trying to say, no matter what the outcome, people should -- you know, cool heads should prevail and part of this has been the process, allowing this to play out. And certainly people shouldn't be getting upset or being violent in the wake of whatever the outcome may be.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me just say this. No one should ever be violent about anything, and especially in this particular case.

And I want to say this as judiciously as possible. I'm not just saying this because I'm African-American. But to hear people come out beforehand and talk about the possibility of violence and not rioting, it strikes me as those barbarians can't contain themselves. And it strikes many people as that as well.

I don't I don't remember any talk about this surrounding the Jodi Arias verdict or the Casey Anthony verdict. Now, the police department was involved in this particular thing and there is race involved. But to say beforehand, many people think that that is sort of inciting violence by telling people not to be riotous and not to come out.

I think it's incumbent upon police departments to protect and serve all the time, including in these particular situations. The family has said, according to our reporters, according to the people who've been in the courtroom and who have spoken to her, that whatever the verdict is, they will accept that. And it's incumbent upon the public to accept the same verdict.

But to say, we're going to expect riots -- and Mark NeJame, who's sitting here next to me, same conversation. It just -- it appears to be a bit odd. It seems like the Sanford Police Department is now coming out and having a conversation with the public that they should have had with themselves a long time ago before this particular incident.




NEJAME: I think, Don, you couldn't be more right. I think it's just so inappropriate and wrong to think that because there's going to be a verdict, let's say the verdict is simply not guilty, that people are going to riot over that. Let's be specific about it. We have talked about this, that African-Americans are going to riot over this. That's just wrong.


LEMON: Well, same thing. What if -- you know, if he is acquitted, do you think that white Americans or Hispanic Americans are going to riot?


NEJAME: Nobody's talking about white Americans rioting.

The reality of it is, will some people who are irrational and ill- tempered, might a person or two react?

LEMON: Absolutely.

NEJAME: And if they do, I think they should be arrested and we all agree.

Look, I just saw Daryl Parks, who's become a friend through all this. And Natalie Jackson is a friend. Mark O'Mara is a friend. We have to all understand that justice is a process. It's not the outcome. We have all seen a very open trial.


NEJAME: We have seen skilled lawyers on both sides. We have seen people give their best and now we're awaiting a jury verdict. So to suggest that, you know, it's going to be riotous I think is just so offensive and wrong.

And let's just hope -- and, listen, you know, what kind of memory would it be to Trayvon Martin for all those advocates for him, what kind of memory is it that other people get hurt, other people get killed in the event there's an acquittal? And on the other side, if, in fact, he's convicted, then people have to simply understand that and recognize that that's what the jury ruled.

LEMON: That's the judicial process. That's what people have said all along, including his family, including most people who have been advocates if you want to say for the side, for Trayvon Martin's side, is that what they wanted was for the judicial process to play out. They did not say they wanted George Zimmerman to be convicted. They just wanted him to face a judge and a jury and whatever happened after that, that was the end of the process.

NEJAME: That's right. That's right. That's exactly what's happened.

So for those who thought that he shouldn't -- George Zimmerman should have never been arrested, and those who thought that, in fact, he should have been arrested on the spot, this is how it's played out. We have had this transparency, this trial in front of the media, in front of the world. You couldn't have both sides better represented.


NEJAME: So now we simply have to wait. And whatever happens, we have to accept. We don't have to agree, but we have to accept. That's what separates us from so much of the world, because we deal with things civilly. We deal with things. We accept the judicial process. And we don't simply revolt over it.

LEMON: We figure out how we can be better and we move on.

NEJAME: That's right. Exactly right, Don.

KEILAR: And that was obviously something that we heard from, I think, the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family, that for them, justice was about seeing this process through. And they just wanted a chance for George Zimmerman to obviously face a jury and go through this process of a trial.

Don and Mark, thank you very much for that.

Coming up after a quick break, we have something that you will only see here on CNN, an exclusive interview with Mark O'Mara. That is George Zimmerman's lead defense attorney -- right after a quick break.


KEILAR: The jury now has the case in the George Zimmerman murder trial. His fate rests in their hands as they begin deliberations.

Who are these people on the jury? Obviously, we haven't seen them on camera, as is customary. But we do know a little bit about them. Five white women. One woman who is Hispanic or black. The age range from 30s to 60s, and most of the women are married. So what are they talking about right now? What might trip them up as they begin deliberations?

We will get the perspective of a jury consultant coming up in just a moment, but now to a trial perspective that you will see first here on CNN.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara just gave the most watched and likely most scrutinized closing argument of his career.

And now he's been talking with our Martin Savidge, Martin joining me now from Sanford.

So, Martin, you spoke to George Zimmerman's attorney for nearly an hour.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, yes. This was a very candid conversation.

Mark O'Mara has been no stranger when it comes to the media. But I think what makes this interview very unique, it was the fact that we conducted it with the idea that it was going to come out after the jury had gone into deliberations, in other words, after the defense and the prosecution had both rested.

This allowed Mark O'Mara to be the most candid I have ever heard him. There was nothing he would not talk about. And we talked about everything, whether it be race, whether it be about politics, whether it be about improprieties he saw from the side of the prosecution and about some of the witnesses, as well as some of the personalities including Judge Nelson.

So here is Mark O'Mara and our conversation.


SAVIDGE: Why did you take this case?

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: It's what I do. People asked me that so many times. And I can't come up with a better or different reason than this is what I do. When this case first became open to me, I looked at it and it just seemed to fit my skill set more than I could ever have planned or imagined.

SAVIDGE: What were the circumstances when you first met George?

O'MARA: Strangely enough, when I walked into the jail cell where George was waiting, I had a couple pictures in my mind. I had a picture of Trayvon Martin being a very young boy, maybe 13 or 14 years old. I had a picture of George Zimmerman being about 250 pounds with an attitude, because that's the picture that I saw, 2005 picture, when he was very heavy.

And that's OK. Those are the type of people that I represent, generally speaking. I walked into that jail cell, and one of the most amazing sights to me was this small, young, respectful, quiet, scared individual, half -- literally half the size that I thought he would be, not physically, but presentation.

And it really took me back. I spent a couple hours with him. And he was very respectful, very open, very concerned about his situation. But -- and from that day forward, I knew, one, I would be representing him, and, two, where this case was going to go.

SAVIDGE: Was it a concern for you that he might have been a racist?

O'MARA: When I saw the 12-year-old Trayvon Martin picture and the 270-pound George Zimmerman picture, yes, no question. And, strangely enough, I think that's why most of the people who believe that George Zimmerman is a racist today got their belief when they saw those two pictures 16 months ago. And you can't not have that thought.

SAVIDGE: Whose fault is that, that imagery dichotomy? Because I think everyone knows what you're talking about, that, at the beginning, the images were very different. You had the first pictures of George Zimmerman. He was in what looked like jail attire. And then you had a very, very young looking Trayvon Martin. Whose fault is that?

O'MARA: It was a wonderfully created and crafted public relations campaign by the people who are assisting the Martin family. That's Ben Crump and other people.

I don't -- I don't discredit what he did, as long as he acknowledges that's exactly what happened.

SAVIDGE: Do you think that George Zimmerman would have even been charged had Ben Crump not been pulled into this?

O'MARA: No, Ben Crump or someone like him, because had Ben Crump not gotten involved in the case, maybe for some good reasons to begin with -- if he believed that there was something here that was being swept under the rug, then get on into it. I'm very OK with that. I...

SAVIDGE: But you didn't quite say it that way. You made it sound like it was Ben Crump, George Zimmerman would be free at this time and we would not be in a trial.

O'MARA: That's correct. I think that it was a made-up story for purposes that had nothing to do with George Zimmerman, and that they victimized him. They complain about Trayvon Martin being victimized. George Zimmerman was victimized by a publicity campaign to smear him, to call him a racist when he wasn't and to call him a murderer when he wasn't.

SAVIDGE: And so Angela Corey and the governor and all of those that had a hand in bringing about this prosecution, they were all manipulated by Ben Crump?

O'MARA: Oh, I don't know that it was Ben Crump doing all that manipulation.

But I'm very surprised that the prosecution team decided not to take this case to a grand jury, when one was sitting, impaneled and ready to take on the case for the state of Florida vs. George Zimmerman and determine whether or not there was enough evidence and enough information to charge him with any crime.

Rather than do that, which was the default position that could have happened, they decided to have a press conference, pray with the victim's family, and then announce second-degree murder charges.

SAVIDGE: How much of this was politics?

O'MARA: It's guesswork on my behalf.

But if I enter into this formula an element or ingredient of politics, a lot more makes sense, a lot more about the way the case was handled early on, the way it was turned into a racial event, when seemingly -- and now positively -- it wasn't, when a special prosecutor was brought in, when there doesn't seem to be any reason why -- you know, Wolfinger, the sitting prosecutor, had the perfect opportunity to handle this case.

Matter of fact, I have deposed three of his assistants who were busting their butts on this case. So they were ready to go forward. And we had a grand jury set. So, when a special prosecutor comes in, then waives the grand jury, and then files charges that most good legal analysts, including Alan Dershowitz, say, that's an abomination, you have to wonder if there's not some outside influencing pressuring decisions.

SAVIDGE: Much has been made about race in this case. Where do you see race in this case?

O'MARA: I see race being injected into this case in the first week that it existed. And I see that it has never left this case, even though time and time and time again, race has been proven not to have been an element in George's consideration that night.

SAVIDGE: This case to many is a cause. It's not just a case.

These would be people who are very much in support of Trayvon Martin who believe that there was great wrong here and, in essence, that this is a civil rights case. And I mean that in the full sense of advancing civil rights.

You are perceived as the man standing in the way of this civil rights case.

O'MARA: Right.

SAVIDGE: How do you handle that?

O'MARA: Very simply. I will walk over to that side, put my arm around those people, and walk with them on a civil rights issue.

I have represented young black males for 30 years. I know better than most people, better than most of the people who are complaining how young black males are treated in the criminal justice system. And we need to fix it. We need to address those problems. It's not just in the system. It's in the schools, it's in the churches, it's in the families, it's in the homes. We need to address it.

Get your crosshairs off George Zimmerman, and I will join you. Keep your crosshairs on George Zimmerman, and don't tell me that I'm getting in the way, because you are, because you're the one who's sitting back telling me that this is a civil rights case, when George had nothing to do with civil rights. This was an unfortunate event between two people.

SAVIDGE: You took I think what some might consider risks during the trial, one of them being that you cross-examined a grieving mother.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: Any regrets on that?


I hope that people think -- or I think that I handled it properly and respectfully. I have handled, I think, 40 or so murder cases. And in every one of those murder cases, you're going to have some interaction with the victim's family.


O'MARA: You certainly would hope that your son Trayvon Martin did nothing that could have led to his own death, correct?


SAVIDGE: And you did Tracy Martin as well.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: And that one didn't seem to go quite so well.


O'MARA: So your words were, "I can't tell."

TRACY MARTIN, FATHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: Something to that effect. But I never said, no, that that wasn't my son's voice.


O'MARA: Well, I think that the state should have put Tracy Martin on. That's their witness. I think it was strange that they decided not to call the father of the victim.

But they did so because of the very reason that I had to call him, which was that Tracy Martin told two cops who testified, four who were present, that when he listened to that tape, it was not his son.

SAVIDGE: But that's not what he said on the stand.

O'MARA: That is not. But it is what two cops said and two other cops who were available to say that he said, no, that's not my son's voice.

Now, it's got to be extraordinarily difficult to be in Tracy Martin's shoes and Sybrina Fulton's shoes. They have to be able to go through life believing in their heart and in their soul that that is Trayvon Martin's voice.

SAVIDGE: Rachel Jeantel, what did you think of her as a witness?

O'MARA: Here's how I think about Rachel Jeantel myself. I think that she was a reluctant witness who didn't want to be there. I think her mom and Ms. Fulton got together and said something like, you need to go tell this woman what happened to her son and do it now. And I think that's what happened.

SAVIDGE: And how much was actual fact do you think from her testimony?

O'MARA: I think what happened was, once she was put in the position of having to talk, we know that what she did was -- was smooth over a lot of the rough spots of what Trayvon was talking to her about.

We know that she didn't talk about the racist terms that may have been used or the colorful language that he may have used. And I think what she did was just give a sanitized version to mom, because, after all, I think she was being sensitive to Ms. Fulton having just lost her son.

I think Ms. Jeantel came across as being not wanting to be there. I think she had a bit of an attitude because she was there. I don't think she took very kindly to the way Mr. West was examining her.

SAVIDGE: Oh, I think you're quite right, yes.

O'MARA: And I think that showed. And I give her, her due in that she didn't want to be involved in our system.

SAVIDGE: Do you think that George Zimmerman, your client, if he's acquitted, what kind of life will he have? O'MARA: Not a good one.

I think he has to live mostly in hiding. He's got to be able to protect himself from that periphery that still believe that he's some racist murderer or acted in a bad way, and that you don't know who they are. You don't know if they're down the street or you don't know if they're across the country. I think that he's probably concerned about living still in Central Florida, and never having a normal life.

SAVIDGE: Is this the case you want to be remembered for?

O'MARA: Well, I would like to wait until an acquittal happens before I'm remembered for it, but, yes, I'm OK with that, for this reason. I think that I have handled myself well.

I think that I have looked at a case that's very difficult in a number of different facets, media, racial issues, the fact that it's a murder, vocal family, other attorneys involved, and I think that I have handled it in a way that has maintained my respect for myself, which I guess is very important to me, but much more important than that, is that I have respected or maintained a respect for the system.

And I have been able to sort of juggle all of those sensitivities without compromising my client's right to a fair trial or my zealous representation of him. So, I'm feeling pretty good about what I have done so far, to be honest, and not to sound egoist.

SAVIDGE: And as that jury deliberates, are you nervous? Are you anxious? Do you have some ritual that calms you? What will be happening?

O'MARA: I can't eat. I can't work. I just have to wait.

It is the worst thing. I guess it's sort of like waiting for a child to be born or something. You're just waiting, and you just don't know. You're anticipating it, fearing it at the same time, of course. But, no, you don't do anything but wait. I don't think there's anything else you can do.


SAVIDGE: And that waiting is under way. It began at 2:30 for Mark O'Mara, and certainly for George Zimmerman. By the way, Mark O'Mara, no surprise here, says, yes, he will be writing a book -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Not surprising there. And I'm sure many people, most of the folks involved in this case are playing that terrible waiting game right now.

Martin Savidge, great interview. Thank you for that.

SAVIDGE: Thank you.

KEILAR: Now, coming up, our experts will debate that interview. Plus, you will hear from one of the people that Mark O'Mara blasted throughout this trial, Benjamin Crump. He is the attorney for Trayvon Martin's family. We have that coming up as we await the jury's decision in the George Zimmerman trial.

Stay right here with us.


KEILAR: Before the break, you heard from the George Zimmerman defense lawyer Mark O'Mara. And we have reached out to the Trayvon Martin family for interviews. They are, though, waiting until after the verdict to give those.

The attorneys for Martin's parents spoke with CNN's Piers Morgan.

And here's some of that conversation.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF TRAYVON MARTIN: If the jury follows the evidence, George Zimmerman will be held accountable of killing Trayvon Martin because nothing has changed.

George Zimmerman followed, profiled, made a decision to get out of his car and chase Trayvon Martin. The 911 tape, clearly that objective evidence says that the young lady he was talking to on the phone clearly says that. There is nothing to contradict that. And so who threw what first punch if they were struggling and rolling on the ground, well, George Zimmerman started this confrontation.

And so we can never get beyond Trayvon Martin just walking home and a strange man chasing him. Doesn't Trayvon Martin have the right to self-defense?

We have to all acknowledge that if you had the dynamic turnaround and you had Trayvon Martin kill George Zimmerman, the stand your ground argument wouldn't work for Trayvon Martin. And that's the trouble with this whole thing. It's so subjective when you think about it.

But I believe in my heart that based on your child being chased by a grown man with a .9-millimeter gun and we hear that 911 tape and then a couple of minutes later, he's shot in the heart and dead, I think those women on the jury have children and they have to think that this could be my child. This could be anybody's child.

And that's what's so troubling about this case and that's why so emotional, Piers. People all over the country are saying, especially minority parents, what if this were my child? That's a horrible feeling to imagine your child do nothing wrong but walking home minding his business and somebody gets out their car and chases him.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": Could you see a situation where George Zimmerman is convicted of one of those lesser charges, and would that be satisfactory if you couldn't get a murder charge against him?

NATALIE JACKSON, MARTIN FAMILY CO-COUNSEL: Well, what's satisfactory is what the jury decides in this case. We don't have a choice in that. We don't get to vote. I think that there is a case made for both murder two and for manslaughter because manslaughter is a lesser included offense of -- I'm sorry -- yes, manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder two. So that's why the jury will be given that option.

It comes down to whether or not his mind was reasonable to the average person. That would be -- so that's really crux of it. That's what the jury will decide. Were his actions reasonable? And the actions don't start in the middle of a struggle. They start from the beginning of him getting out of the car armed with a .9-millimeter, following, and running after someone who's running away from him.


KEILAR: Now, we asked the prosecutors in this case if they would be available to speak with us this week. They declined.

And, up next, our experts will weigh in on the emotion, the anger in today's closing arguments.

Plus, a jury consultant tells us what's happening right now inside that room with the jury.