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George Zimmerman's Fox News interview: Risky step for Trayvon Martin's killer?

George Zimmerman, charged with killing Florida teen Trayvon Martin, agreed to an interview with Fox News this week. Legal experts say submitting to the media spotlight this way is a tricky step for criminal defendants and their attorneys. What's said can be used against them.

By Staff writer / July 19, 2012

Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, right, interviews George Zimmerman, left, and his attorney Mark O’Mara on Wednesday at an undisclosed Florida location

Fox News Channel/AP



In his first media interview since his arrest for killing a Florida teenager, former community watch volunteer George Zimmerman apologized for the circumstances, but did not show remorse for his actions.

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Zimmerman is free on a $1 million bond following second degree murder charges involving the killing of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, a city in central Florida. Zimmerman’s trial is pending and he says he is not guilty. In an April court appearance, he expressed sympathy for Mr. Martin’s parents, which he repeated Wednesday in a Fox News interview with host Sean Hannity.

“I would tell them again I’m sorry … I’m sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine how it must feel like. And I pray for them daily,” Zimmerman said. He added he was “certainly open” to a conversation with them in the future.

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Some legal analysts say that while it is certainly risky to put a defendant in a high-profile case in the media spotlight, the televised interview’s purpose was to present Mr. Zimmerman as a reasonable person and lawful gun owner who found himself trapped in an unpredictable situation, which justified the killing.

Despite the sympathy directed to the parents, Zimmerman appeared calm but resolute regarding his actions.

“It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it…,” he said, shaking his head. He later told Mr. Hannity he “would not have done anything differently” even though he wished “that there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take [Martin’s] life.”

Zimmerman’s description of the events corresponds to Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground” law at issue in this case. The law permits people to use lethal force when they fear great bodily injury or death.

Norm Pattis, a criminal defense attorney in New Haven, Conn., says that, while “it’s rarely a good idea” to expose defendants to the media because of the danger the prosecution can use their words against them in a trial, Zimmerman’s attorneys apparently used the Fox interview to successfully articulate his defense and to emphasize his credibility.

“[Zimmerman] wants to claim that, under the totality of the circumstances, homicide was justified and he had to do what he had to do. So he’s walking that line carefully since the trial will be about justified homicide,” Mr. Pattis says. “That is exactly what I expected him to say and it’s very, very shrewd.”


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