An attorney who was approached early on by George Zimmerman to defend him in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin says a photo of Zimmerman’s family proves he could not have racially profiled the Miami teen. And he rewrote the president’s statement on the case, concluding that Barack Obama’s grandparents “would have looked like Zimmerman’s.”
Mark NeJame, a CNN legal analyst, told that network’s Piers Morgan that a photo he gave to the network showing Zimmerman’s great-grandfather, grandmother, and his mother as an infant, proves that Zimmerman is of “multicultural, multiracial” background, and therefore could not have held negative racial attitudes toward Martin. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Peruvian. The picture shows his mother as a baby, being held by an elderly man who appears to be black. Her mother is standing behind the pair.
“When I first heard about this tragedy, I jumped to the conclusion that I think many did, that there’s some racial aspect to this shooting; that Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in part based upon bigotry and racial profiling,” NeJame told CNN. “I presumed that from all the press reports that came out and from what I heard. As I started getting into a role as an analyst and such, I’ve been a defense lawyer for over 30 years — and I’ve come to realize that much of what you hear is simply not factual.”
“He really has significant multiracial, multicultural roots,” NeJame said of Zimmerman.
NeJame claims that he has learned through his “investigation” that Zimmerman “was raised in a multicultural, integrated family, and in large part by his grandmother, who is half black.”
He went on to say, “I have made the analogy and I think it’s appropriate, that President [Barack] Obama has indicated that his son would have looked like Trayvon Martin. Most respectfully, his grandparents and great grandparents would have looked a lot like George Zimmerman’s grandparents and great grandparents.”
NeJame concluded that in light of the photo, and what he called Zimmerman “mentoring African-American children,” there could not, in his words, be a “racial motive” for the killing.
Prosecutors have claimed that Zimmerman profiled Martin on the night of February 26th, before confronting him in the back yard area of the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhouses in Sanford, Florida, and ultimately shooting him to death. Police declined to arrest Zimmerman on the night of the shooting, and the then-police chief, Bill Lee, told the media Zimmerman had credibly claimed self-defense. Lee is now on paid leave, and the prosecutor of record recused himself, telling the Florida governor he wished to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
More than a month of protests followed, and last month, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott charged Zimmerman with second degree murder. The prosecution’s filing in the case makes no claim that Zimmerman is racist, only that he profiled Martin. Zimmerman had placed forty-six calls to Sanford police during the 18 moths he lived at the Retreat at Twin Lakes. Several of those calls referred to alleged suspicious behavior by young black men. During his call to the police non-emergency number on the night of the Martin shooting, Zimmerman could be heard to say “these a—holes always get away.”
NeJame became a factor the Zimmerman prosecution, when the original trial judge, Circuit Court Judge Jessica Recksiedler, recused herself, after it emerged that her husband works for NeJame’s Florida law firm. NeJame was approached by Zimmerman in March when the then-uncharged 28-year-old was seeking representation. NeJame declined at the time, and Zimmerman was briefly represented first by Orlando area attorney Craig Sonner, who was later joined by co-counsel Hal Uhrig, who had been a local television analyst during the Casey Anthony trial. NeJame, who has been nicknamed the “Johnny Cochran of Central Florida,” has represented Tiger Woods and his then wife Elin Nordegren following an incident involving a car crash at their Florida home, and he briefly represented Anthony’s parents.
Zimmerman’s current attorney, Mark O’Mara, wanted the judge to step aside because he was concerned about the potential for NeJame to maintain contact with Zimmeman’s family, creating more publicity around the already hot-button case. It appears that indeed, NeJame continues to have contact with some members of the Zimmerman family. He told Morgan he got the photo from a member of the Zimmerman family.
O’Mara and NeJame are well acquainted, and O’Mara, like Uhrig, was a local television analyst during the Casey Anthony trial. In fact, NeJame says he recommended O’Mara to Zimmerman after twice declining to take the case.
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