O’Mara on the issue of civil rights: “Get your crosshairs off George Zimmerman and I will join you.”

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Martin Savidge, Mark O’Mara – defense attorney for George Zimmerman – opens up and answers some difficult questions, now that the case has gone to the jury.  Below are some of the highlights.

[Savidge’s questions noted in bold]

How much of this was politics?

“It’s guesswork on my behalf but if I enter into this formula an element, an ingredient, of politics, a lot more makes sense. A lot more about the way this 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 is brought in when there doesn’t seem to be any reason why [Florida State Attorney] Norm Wolfinger as a sitting prosecutor, perfect opportunity to handle this case, matter of fact I’ve 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 a 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 influence in pressuring decisions.”

O’Mara then responds to questions on the issue of race surrounding the Zimmerman case.

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

“I see race being injected into this case in the first week that it existed and I see that it’s 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.  I see attorneys who say, four weeks ago, that this is the most significant civil rights trial of the century and then I see a partner who’s, a week ago, saying race has nothing to do with this case. So, I only wish that they would have said race has nothing to do with this case in, let’s say, March 15th or March 16th, which was the day that they heard the tape.  Anytime before they allowed the pressures and animosities to foment to the point where there was at least concerns over civil unrest, disobedience, riots, whatever you want to call it.”

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 a man standing in the way of this civil rights case.  How do you handle that?

“Right. Very simply.  I will walk over to that side, put my arm around those people and walk with them on civil rights issues.  I’ve represented young black males for thirty 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 then don’t tell me that I’m getting in the way, because you are.  Because you’re the one 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.  I want to walk down that path, I want to have a conversation, I’ve been asking for that conversation for over a year, let’s talk about it.  This is a great opportunity for that conversation.  Even if we didn’t do it right, even if George Zimmerman was not the poster child for racial improprieties towards young black males, now that the conversation is raised to the forefront, let’s have it.  But don’t let that conversation override Mr. Zimmerman’s rights to a fair trial.  He’s just not the racist you thought he was, and my fear is that now that they’ve connected that conversation to his conviction, that his acquittal is going to be seen as a negative for civil rights. Absolutely untrue.”

Martin Savidge asks O’Mara about the influence of Martin family attorney Ben Crump on the case; O’Mara also discusses how he believes Zimmerman was falsely portrayed as “a racist” and “a murderer” by a publicity campaign to smear his client.

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

“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.”

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 he would not be on trial.

“That’s correct.  I think 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.”

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

“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, empaneled and ready to take on the case in 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 addresses with O’Mara what life will be like for Zimmerman if he’s acquitted.

Do you think that George Zimmerman, your client, if he’s acquitted, what kind of life will he have?

“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 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.

His life will never be the same?

“Never, ever, ever be the same.”

Never, like, be able to go to work or have a regular job?

“I don’t know how he gets a job where he’s out in public without having the fear of somebody finding out where he works.”

And you think some will continue to want to hunt him, even if a jury says ‘you are not guilty.’

“Well we know there are crazies out there, I mean I know there are people who don’t listen to common sense and who act irrationally.  I can show you a couple dozen emails from people who are vicious in their hatred for George Zimmerman, and for me.  It’s absurd.  But they’re there.  So I don’t know which is the one who’s going to walk down the street the same time George does.  They know what he looks like, he doesn’t know what they look like.”

O’Mara had some criticisms of prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda’s discovery perspective.  But as an attorney who has “known Judge Debra Nelson for years,” he has a great deal of respect for her.  “She doesn’t hate me or the defense,” he said.