For weeks, George Zimmerman’s family, friends, his spokesman and his supporters have pushed a dramatic narrative: Zimmerman was the victim of a violent and brutish Trayvon Martin, who in their telling, battered Zimmerman in a savage attack that the 28-year-old neighborhood watchman only survived by putting a bullet into Martin’s chest.
That story has been retold by Zimmerman’s father, Robert Sr, his brother Robert Jr., his co-worker and onetime media adviser Joe Oliver, and his original attorneys, Craig Sonner and, in particular, the brash, forceful Hal Uhrig — who proclaimed that the most important element of the case was the claim by persons unnamed that Zimmerman is a racist.
They have gone on television, mostly to friendly news outlets like Fox News and its Orlando, Florida affiliate, to describe, in excruciating detail, how in their words, it was Martin who surprised and confronted Zimmenrman, sent him to the ground with a single blow, and began bashing his head into the concrete, as Zimmerman yelled for help. This, though audio experts hired by a local newspaper, and Trayvon Martin’s mother, have said it was the boy, not Zimmerman, whose cries are heard on a chilling 911 tape.
WATCH ZIMMERMAN’S NEW LAWYER MARK O’MARA DISCUSS TRAYVON’S MOM:
In the most recent version, proffered by Robert Jr., (who Sonner told NBC News had not spoken with his brother in years and had no part to play in the drama) George began to inch his head toward the grass, to prevent himself having to spend the rest of his life “wearing a diaper.” In increasingly dramatic fashion, the Zimmermans claimed Martin, a slim but tall teenager, who was outweighed by the shorter but stockier Zimmerman, went for George’s gun, proclaiming, “you’re going to die tonight.” In Uhrig’s version, Zimmerman was at risk, even as an adult, of suffering the lifelong physical trauma of shaken baby syndrome.
The comportment of the family, and Uhrig, toward the Martin family ranged from dismissive to harsh — they fixated on people like Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and MSNBC as the real villains, along, of course, with Trayvon. They whipped up support on right wing blogs. According to Sonner and Uhrig, who withdrew from the case abruptly on Wednesday, saying they had lost contact with their client, Zimmerman personally reached out to Fox News host Sean Hannity.
With a new lawyer on the case, the message has changed.
Mark O’Mara, who, like Uhrig, had been a legal analyst on Orlando television during the Casey Anthony trial, has charted a very different stylistic course from Uhrig.
He has sought to tone down the rhetoric, asked the court to seal any additional filings in the case, and has even suggested that Zimmerman may apologize to Martin’s parents.
Given the chance to score an easy point on Thursday, after Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, appeared on The Today Show and used the word “accident” in describing the fatal confrontation between George Zimmerman and her son on February 26th (her attorney, Natalie Jackson, later issued a statement clarifying those remarks to indicate the meeting between the gunman and the teenager was an accident of fate, though in the parents’ minds, and according to prosecutors, the shooting was not), O’Mara said, “we are not going to be using words against the mother of a deceased child.”
It was a stark contrast from the previous counsel, who never described the Miami 17-year-old as a child, though his parents and their supporters consistently have.
And it marks the beginning of what many Sanford residents hope will be a calming of tensions in this small southern town.
What if Zimmerman was released
Sanford’s mayor, Mark Triplett, told theGrio yesterday he’d like to see the community begin to heal, though fights over the fate of the police chief, who stepped down temporarily on March 23rd, remain.
But those tensions could well up again if a bond hearing for Mr. Zimmerman, which has tentatively been set for April 20, results in the release of Mr. Zimmerman back into a community his family and former attorneys have said posed a threat to his safety.
O’Mara may be banking on his softer approach to help smooth the way for an argument that Zimmerman should be released on bail until his arraignment, set for May 29th.
How locals — black and white — would react to a potential release, assuming a judge allowed bond, is hard to say.
Sanford police spokesman Sgt. David Morgenstern said the department “will make plans accordingly, if needed,” in the event Zimmerman were to be released on bond.
“I don’t think anything would happen,” said Lon Howell, a former city commissioner and longtime resident. “Sanford’s not that way. I think some people would be disappointed, but for the most part we get along here.”
Current commissioner Velma Williams, who is black, and represents the majority African-American Goldsboro and Georgetown neighborhoods, which have become a hub of activity and advocacy around the Trayvon Martin case, agrees.
“I’m sure some persons would have some concerns,” Williams said, “but overall I don’t think there would be an outcry. The number one thing was to have him be arrested, and I think that has given a great deal of relief.”
Williams said Sanford’s residents understand that there is a legal process that has to take place, “and the thinking is that we have to embrace that.”
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