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Trayvon Martin family may sue George Zimmerman in civil court

George Zimmerman reacts to the jury's verdict.
George Zimmerman reacts to the jury's verdict.
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Updated: 7/14/2013 10:35 pm
SANFORD, Fla. -- George Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, told WFTV his client "still has to live in hiding" despite being acquitted of second-degree murder Saturday night.

Zimmerman emerged from the Seminole County courthouse a free man late Saturday night, cleared of all charges in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Speaking live on WFTV's 'Central Florida Spotlight' on Sunday, O'Mara said it will take time for Zimmerman to adjust to life as a free man.

"We are right now after a 16-month traumatic event for my client, so he gets a little time to relax," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had been living "like a hermit" since the shooting and weren't working because they feared for their safety, O'Mara said before the trial.

"He feels much better having this behind him, he just doesn't know what his future holds and how he's going to deal with that,'" O'Mara said.

With many critics angry over his acquittal, Zimmerman's freedom will likely be limited.  Protests and rallies were planned around the country on Sunday, a day after the verdict was handed down.

Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, said Sunday that the family is not ruling out the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against Zimmerman.

"They're going to certainly look at that as an option. They deeply want a sense of justice. They deeply don't want their son's death to be in vain," Crump said.

Minutes after the verdict was read, Tracy Martin sent out several Tweets.

One said, "Even though I am broken-hearted my faith is unshattered. I will always love my baby Tray. Thanks to everyone who are with us and who will be with us. We together can make sure that this doesn't happen again."

Crump acknowledged the disappointment of Trayvon Martin's supporters, ranking the teen alongside civil rights heroes Medgar Evers and Emmett Till in the history of the fight for equal justice. However, Crump said, "for Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful."

Demonstrators upset with the verdict protested mostly peacefully in Florida, Milwaukee and Atlanta overnight, but some broke windows and vandalized a police squad car in Oakland during protests in four California cities, authorities said.

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

Martin's killing in February 2012 unleashed debate across the U.S. over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. Protesters across the country lashed out against police in the Orlando suburb of Sanford as it took 44 days for Zimmerman to be arrested. Many, including Martin's parents, said Zimmerman had racially profiled the unarmed black teen. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Six anonymous female jurors -- all but one of them white -- considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying and where Zimmerman lived.

Jurors deliberated more than 15 hours over two days before announcing late Saturday night that they had reached a verdict.

After Saturday's verdict, police, officials 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."

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

"He killed somebody and got away with murder," Perkins shouted, so angry he shook, looking toward the courthouse.

Trayvon Martin's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said on Twitter: "Et tu America?" -- a reference to the Latin phrase "Et tu, Brute?" known as an expression of betrayal.

Martin's family has maintained the teen was not the aggressor, and prosecutors suggested Martin was scared because he was being followed by a stranger. Defense attorneys, however, said Martin knocked Zimmerman down and was slamming the older man's head against the concrete sidewalk when Zimmerman fired his gun.

During the trial, prosecutors called Zimmerman a liar and portrayed him as a "wannabe cop" vigilante who had grown frustrated by break-ins in his neighborhood committed primarily by young black men. Zimmerman assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands, prosecutors said.

State Attorney Angela Corey said after the verdict that she believed second-degree murder was the appropriate charge because Zimmerman's mindset "fit the bill of second-degree murder."

"We charged what we believed we could prove," Corey said.

Zimmerman also had some supporters outside the courthouse, including Cindy Lenzen, 50, of Casslebury, and her brother, 52-year-old Chris Bay, who stood watching others chant slogans such as, "the whole system's guilty."

Lenzen and Bay -- who are white -- called the entire case "a tragedy," especially for Zimmerman.

"It's a tragedy that he's going to suffer for the rest of his life," Bay said. "No one wins either way. This is going to be a recurring nightmare in his mind every night."

Despite the racially charged nature of the case, race was barely mentioned at the trial.

"This case has never been about race or the right to bear arms," Corey said. "We believe this case all along was about boundaries, and George Zimmerman exceeded those boundaries."

One of the few mentions of race came from witness Rachel Jeantel, the Miami teen who was talking to Martin by phone moments before he was shot. She testified that he described being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker" as he walked through the neighborhood.

Jeantel gave some of the trial's most riveting testimony. She said she overheard Martin demand, "What are you following me for?" and then yell, "Get off! Get off!" before his cellphone went dead.

[Special coverage: George Zimmerman trial]

The jurors had to sort out clashing testimony from 56 witnesses in all, including police, neighbors, friends and family members.

O'Mara said Sunday that at some point, the public will hear from George Zimmerman himself.

"On his terms, at his time, when he's ready, absolutely he'll talk," O'Mara said.
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