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In Interview, Zimmerman's Lawyer Says Trial Won't Happen In 2012

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara (left) stands with his client, George Zimmerman, at a hearing related to second-degree murder charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
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Defense attorney Mark O'Mara (left) stands with his client, George Zimmerman, at a hearing related to second-degree murder charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

When he appeared in court on second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was accompanied by his new defense attorney, Mark O'Mara. Hours after the hearing, O'Mara told NPR that he doubts the case will go to trial in 2012.

But in the meantime, O'Mara tells Tell Me Morehost Michel Martin, he'd like to get his client out of jail.

"I think he deserves to be out on bond, with whatever conditions the court believes appropriate to protect him, and the process," O'Mara says. "I would like him out, so that he can assist me in preparing for his defense."

Zimmerman, who told police that he acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, was arrested Wednesday. He is being kept in the Seminole County jail.

You can learn more about the prosecution's case against Zimmerman by reading Corey Dade's post on the probable cause affidavit. Below, highlights from Michel's interview with O'Mara, which will air Friday:

On how he came to take the case:

"I was contacted by some friends on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman, and an attorney who was helping him try to find counsel. And I guess I was on a list of several attorneys. So, we had some conversations. I had to talk to my wife [and] my staff to decide if it was a case that we wanted to get involved in. Because obviously, it's a fairly enormous undertaking."

On staying in touch with Zimmerman:

"I am his attorney of record. And I have confidence that he has confidence in me."

"I think he's under an enormous amount of emotional strain, stemming from the isolation that he's been in for several weeks from the event, stemming from the fact that he was involved in an event, in some form or fashion, that caused the death of Trayvon Martin."

"So, that carries with it an enormous level of stress, and of concern. And, of course, he's now facing second-degree murder charges. So, for a 28-year-old, that's gotta be very difficult to deal with. But I think he's dealing with it as best as can be expected."

On whether the charge of second-degree murder is fair:

"I know so little about the facts of the case right now, I truly do, that trying to second-guess the prosecutor, who has had all the information in front of her — I would just be guessing. And I truly don't want to do that."

On the question of why Zimmerman got out of his car:

"I have no idea — and that would be a comment on the evidence, which is improper for attorneys to do... it would also, of course, be improper for me to discuss what I may have discussed with him. I will state that I have not had conversations with him about the facts of the case — because it's well too early in my representation to even get to that point."

On whether Zimmerman would be safe if he were released on bond:

"I don't think that today, in this community, it would be safe for him to be at large. But I think that we can protect him. I don't think that him being safe is the only reason why we should have him incarcerated, without having been found guilty of anything."

On whether he will ask to move the trial:

"I have no idea. It's much too early. That process really should occur only when you're getting close to trial."

On when might the trial start:

"Again, without even having seen the evidence, and knowing what it's going to take to analyze it, evaluate it, and respond to it, it would be guesswork. But, most cases like this, I cannot imagine it going to trial within the year."

On ensuring a fair trial for Zimmerman:

"If you were to ask me, 'Could we try this case in Seminole County today?' I think I would say 'No.' I think the emotions are still running high. You know, the wounds are still quite raw. And I think we would need to give it some time. And part of it is, I would like to give the community some time, to begin to build back up its trust in the criminal justice process."

"I think that there have been a lot of people concerned with the way the case was handled in the early stages, and that that has lead to suspicions. So, I think as we work through the process of convincing, if you will, the community that this case is going to be handled properly, and at the end, justice will be served — hopefully — then that will help us all... that we sort of rebuild their confidence."

On the possibly using Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' defense:

"I don't know... certainly there seems to be a facet of the case which will be that self defense was an issue. And when I say 'self defense,' people always now say, 'Stand Your Ground.' Because that seems to be the now catch-phrase for what self defense is, and the way we've changed those statutes."

"I don't know where along the line self defense is going to play within it, but I'm certain it's going to have a part."

On any clarifications:

"As an attorney looking at the case before my involvement, I was frustrated by the fact that information flow out of the case was happening the way it was happening. And I noticed that the way that the — call them leaks, or information — was occurring was really leading to more frustration, and anger, and upset than it was resolving."

"So if I have any frustration, it would be that I wish the case wasn't handled the way it was handled through today, as far as some of the information flow going out. Because it's really supposed to happen during the discovery process."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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