Possible lawsuits, ongoing fear for safety may face Zimmerman

2013-07-15T00:00:00Z Possible lawsuits, ongoing fear for safety may face ZimmermanThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SANFORD, Fla. - After a year and a half of living as a hermit, George Zimmerman emerged from a Florida courthouse a free man, cleared of all charges in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

His brother said the former neighborhood watch volunteer was still processing the reality that he wouldn't serve prison time for the killing, which Zimmerman, 29, has maintained was an act of self-defense. Late Saturday night, a jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder and declined to convict him on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

However, with many critics angry over his acquittal, his freedom may be limited.

"He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life," Robert Zimmerman Jr. said in an interview on CNN.

The Department of Justice has announced it will look into the case, which could lead to criminal civil rights charges, and Zimmerman may also face civil lawsuits from Martin's family.

He could also potentially make a lot of money by writing a book or from a lawsuit he filed last year against a major television network for allegedly editing his 911 call to make it sound like he was racist.

For the moment, however, veteran publicists say Zimmerman's options are limited.

The case and his trial have become - for some - a symbol of everything that's wrong with the country's justice system and with race relations in America today.

In August 2012, defense attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had been living like hermits and weren't working because they feared for their safety.

After Saturday's verdict, police and civil rights leaders urged peace and told protesters not to resort to violence. While defense attorneys said they were thrilled with the outcome, O'Mara suggested Zimmerman's safety would be an ongoing concern.

"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."

"I have one short piece of advice for him," said Jonathan Bernstein, president of the Southern California-based Bernstein Crisis Management Inc.

"Hide."

Those watching reacted strongly when the verdict was announced. Martin's mother and father were not in the courtroom when it was read; supporters of his family who had gathered outside yelled "No! No!" upon learning of the verdict.

Andrew Perkins, 55, a black resident of Sanford, angrily asked outside the courthouse: "How the hell did they find him not guilty?"

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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