George Zimmerman’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Not a Racist

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George Zimmerman Photo: (AP Photo/Orange County Jail via Miami Herald)

On Friday, the press finally tracked down Craig Sonner, an attorney representing George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Speaking to reporters, Sonner denied the now very widely accepted belief that the incident was racially motivated: 

"Actually George Zimmerman was a mentor to a single mother with a 14 year old son and a 13 year old daughter and she had nothing but good things to say about his involvement with them, and also helping in raising money for their African American church.”  

He also backed away from the claim that the shooting was justified under Flordia’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, saying that the shooting was an act of self-defense: "You have a right to defend yourself. So the next issue [that] is going to come up is, was [Zimmerman] justified in using the amount of force he did?" Sonner added that he had not actually met with his client in person, as he has gone into hiding, apparently out of fear for his life. As he put it: 

"This case is spinning out of control…I hope there's a way to rein things in so it doesn't become an issue of a racial battle. I hope that things come back so that there can be a time for justice and for healing and not for just skipping the whole judicial process and going straight to sentencing."

Sonner’s comments followed a week of intense national focus on the incident. Yesterday, during a press conference announcing Jim Yong Kim’s nomination for World Bank President, President Obama broke his silence regarding the case, observing that, “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon" and asked the public to "take this with the seriousness it deserves.” His remarks prompted responses from the Republican field, with Rick Santorum calling the incident “a horrible case” and a “chilling example of … obviously horrible decisions made by people in this process.” Mitt Romney also released a short statement in which he called Martin's death a tragedy and called for “a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.” Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, called Obama’s remarks “disgraceful” for suggesting that incident had a racial element: “At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.” 

However, as noted by Politico (and, presumably, most reasonable people), Gingrich is not exactly leading the conversation on the matter. Thousands turned out for rallies in New York  and Florida last week, and more are scheduled for the coming days. Demonstrations took place today at D.C.’s Freedom Plaza and in Sanford, Florida, where members of the New Black Panther Party placed a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s head. And, in the last 24 hours, Geraldo Rivera’s questionable “hoodie” theory (which he has decided to stand by) prompted a uproar and social-media campaign led Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Scores of public figures have followed suit, ensuring that the chorus of calls for justice can only grow in the coming weeks.