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George Zimmerman's Attorney Speaks About Trial; Interview with Attorney Mark O'Mara

Aired July 13, 2013 - 14:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you very much. This is an interview really you won't want to miss. Thanks so much for joining us, everyone.

Jurors are now in their eighth hour inside of the Seminole County Courthouse, deliberating whether George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

And in this hour, you're going to hear from one of the main voices in the case with a new candid perspective never before heard. CNN's Martin Savidge sat down with lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

And we tried to do the same with prosecutors and the Martin family. However, they both are choosing to wait to speak until after a verdict is reached. But O'Mara offered to open up just after he finished his closing argument, knowing he has said and done all he can for his client.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You were not the first attorney in this case?

MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: No, I wasn't. I was sort of second and third.

SAVIDGE: So there's a period you were a spectator before you actually became involved?

O'MARA: And a commentator. I actually talked about this case a little bit.

SAVIDGE: And so what were you thinking about this case at that time?

O'MARA: When I commented at first, I looked at it and said, you got to be careful with the stand your ground law because you want to make sure it doesn't allow people to do things that they should do morally. Don't take advantage of a statute that allows you to do something you should really do. And I commented about that. And I also commented early on that there's a lot about this case we don't know yet. So I'm almost glad I said that because then when I got on this case, it became my mantra.

SAVIDGE: Was it going through your mind that, I hope that case, I just don't have to really be a part of it? O'MARA: What I thought would happened was that I didn't think that I would be his attorney. He had a couple of attorneys already, and I knew that I had done a lot of work on the Casey Anthony case doing commentating, so I thought, well, look, another change to do some commentating on the case. This could be some more fun.

SAVIDGE: Why did you take this case?

O'MARA: This is what I do. People asked me that so many times, and I can't come up with a better or different reason than this is what I do. When the case first came open to me, I looked at it and it just seemed to fit my skill set more than I ever could have planned or imagined. And I say that not to be egoist about it, but I just had a lot of experience with the media, so I knew how to handle that part of it. I had dozens of murder cases, including a bunch of death penalty cases, so I know how to handle tough cases.

I also knew how to handle those cases that you have to deal with victims' families, and you have to have a sensitivity to what they go through to sort of guide to navigate your client through a very difficult system when you have a victim's family involved. So I have that.

And it just seemed like it was perfect for me. And then you overlay that with the social questions about the case, the racism questions, the way this case is being viewed, even the stand your ground law itself, it just met on literally all eight cylinders.

SAVIDGE: It wasn't like you stepped into this case and then it exploded. It had exploded by the time you stepped in. So you knew exactly what you were getting into.

O'MARA: April 11 was my first day in. I had a phone call with George at 4:30 or 5:00, pulled into my office, made the announcement, and by the time I walked to my front door there was 75 or 80 people and 20 cameras and 14 or 15 trucks outside my little office.

SAVIDGE: What were the circumstances when you first met George?

O'MARA: Strangely enough, when I walked into the jail cell where George was waiting, I had a couple pictures in my mind. I had a picture of Trayvon Martin being a very young boy, maybe 13 or 14 years old. I had a picture of George Zimmerman being about 250 pounds with an attitude, because that's the picture that I saw, a 2005 picture, when he was very heavy. And that's OK. Those are the types of people that I represent, generally speaking.

I walked into that jail cell, and one of the most amazing sights to me was this small, young, respectful, quiet, scared individual literally half the size that I thought he would be, not physically, but the presentation. And it really took me back. I spent a couple hours with him, and he was very respectful, very open, very concerned about his situation. But -- and from that day forward, I knew I wanted to represent him, and, two, where this case was going to go.

SAVIDGE: But as things developed, as you grew closer, as you heard more, did you believe the story he told?

O'MARA: I withhold judgment as long as I can and need to. That judgment was withheld for a few weeks until I got the information that I could from the state, until I started getting some of the information.

Once I realized that Trayvon Martin was not 14 years old or 13 years old, the Hollister shirt, and then once I realized that George was significantly injured that night and that he had voluntarily complied with all law enforcement requests from interviews to voice stress analysis tests to walk-throughs, I knew that there was something here different than most cases, because most cases, my clients had done something wrong, and my job is to do damage control. This case became very different after the first couple of weeks, and I've never looked back as far as George's innocence.

SAVIDGE: The reason I ask is that Robert Zimmerman, George's father, has said publicly that he thinks you're a great lawyer and he's very glad that you represented his son. But he has also said at times that he didn't feel you were adamant enough about George's innocence, and I mean declaring that publicly to the media.

O'MARA: Right.

SAVIDGE: What would you say?

O'MARA: I accept the criticism. This is the way I live my life and the way I practice law. And I think I know how to handle my cases better than anybody else in the world, certainly not to demean him, but including a client's father. I understand his loyalty and concern that his son was being assailed and attacked in the media. The two lawyers involved in the case before me took a much more aggressive tact than I did, and I think that they caused more harm than good in the way they handled the case, because while I could have gone to the top of the stairs and screamed his innocence at the top of my lungs, I would have only incensed those very people who I really wanted to do some reaching out to, who I really wanted to convince, let's talk. Let's wait and let's chill down a little bit until we see what's going on.

And quite honestly, I think over the last 16 months that we've worked this case, the sensitivities we brought to the Martin family, to the issues that have been presented in the larger social questions, have helped direct this case towards the situation it's in now. That situation is there are not a lot of protesters out there, there are not a lot of people screaming at the top of their lungs anymore that George is a racist, and they're not even saying he's a murderer. I think they get he's a non-racist and that he acted in self-defense.


LEMON: And up next, Mark O'Mara gets even more candid, admitting that before he met George Zimmerman he was concerned that Zimmerman might be a racist. Wait until you hear what changed his mind. We're back in a moment live in Sanford as we wait for the jury's decision here.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon, live in Sanford, Florida, for CNN's special coverage for the George Zimmerman verdict watch. The jury now deliberating for more than eight hours now. Zimmerman's lead attorney Mark O'Mara talked to CNN about the first concerns, taking on a client who could have been as hateful as some described him.


SAVIDGE: Was it a concern for you that he might have been a racist?

O'MARA: When I saw the 12-year-old Trayvon Martin picture and the 270-pound George Zimmerman picture, yes. No question. And, strangely enough, I think that's why most of the people who believe George Zimmerman is a racist today got their belief, when they saw those two pictures 16 months ago. And you can't not have that thought. You can't look at 12-year-old Trayvon Martin and the size of George Zimmerman and say there's any reason why Trayvon Martin should have lost his life that night. When you look at the reality, it's completely different.

SAVIDGE: Whose fault is that, that imagery dichotomy? Because I think everyone knows what you're talking about, that at the beginning the images were very different. You had the first pictures of Zimmerman in what looks like jail attire, and then you had a very, very young-looking Trayvon Martin. Whose fault was that?

O'MARA: It was a wonderfully created and crafted public relations campaign by the people who were assisting the Martin family. That's Ben Crump and other people. I don't discredit what he did as long as he acknowledges that's what happened.

SAVIDGE: He purposely, or that family, purposely chose those photos because of the youthful look it gave him.

O'MARA: I don't have personal insight on that, but what I do know is that the way this matter was handled, it was handled where Trayvon Martin was 12 or 13 years old and George Zimmerman was a racist murder.

You didn't have to scratch very far below the surface to realize George Zimmerman is an anti-racist. He's the opposite of a racist. This is a guy who mentored black children during this very time that this happened, that he grew up with black children in his home being cared for by his grandmother. He brought a black woman, or girl to his prom. He went and took the stand that he did for Sherman Ware, a homeless black man assailed and attacked by a white cop's son. It didn't take much to look at George Zimmerman and realize he's not a racist. So if that's true, then the maintaining and featuring the fallacy that he was a racist was absolutely intentional.

SAVIDGE: You mentioned Ben Crump. Do you think George Zimmerman would have even been charged had Ben Crump not been pulled into this?

O'MARA: No. If Ben Crump had not gotten involved in the case, maybe if there were some good reasons to begin with, if he believed there was something here that was being swept under the rug, then get into it. I'm very OK with that.

SAVIDGE: But you didn't say it that way. You made it sound like if not for Ben Crump, George Zimmerman would be free at this time and we would not be in a trial.

O'MARA: That's correct. I think it was a made-up story for purposes that had nothing to do with George Zimmerman and that they victimized him, they complained about Trayvon Martin being victimized. George Zimmerman was victimized by a campaign to smear him, to call him a racist when he wasn't and call him a murderer when he wasn't.

SAVIDGE: So Angela Curry, the governor, and all of those that had a hand in bringing about this prosecution, they were all manipulated by Ben Crump?

O'MARA: I don't know if it was Ben Crump doing all that manipulation, but I'm very surprised that the prosecution team decided not to take this case to a grand jury when one was sitting, impanelled, and ready to take on the case in the state versus George Zimmerman and determine whether or not there was enough information to charge him with any crime. Rather than do that, which was the default position that could have happened, they decided have a press conference, pray with the victim's family, and announce second-degree murder charges.

SAVIDGE: George was railroaded?

O'MARA: Not guilty of second-degree murder. He's not guilty of anything but protecting himself from the attack by Trayvon Martin after waiting 40 seconds and screaming for help.

SAVIDGE: The death threats, they certainly were made. I've seen them online. Did you truly believe that George Zimmerman was in danger?

O'MARA: I think that those death threats came from a very extreme periphery. So was he in active fear? Since we don't know where that periphery lives or when they're going to show up in Sanford or Orlando, you have to take those threats for real. I don't know if it was just somebody sitting in the back room of his mother's house with his bathroom on in his Internet chat room, or if he is down the street waiting for George to be found out where he lives. So death threats, you have to take seriously, and he does because he's been living in hiding for 16 months.

SAVIDGE: And what about for you? You have a wife. You have other people working on your staff. Were you afraid for them?

O'MARA: I'm concerned. I think I've handled myself in this case in a way that evidences sensitivities that should be there for the Martin family and the events that have happened. But, again, there is that periphery out there who just may decide that they don't like the fact that I helped George Zimmerman get acquitted. And I don't know how you live any other way than to just continue living your life with it, because I'm not going to go into hiding, I'm not going to stop being a criminal defense lawyer, I'm not going to stop taking on a case that I believe in. SAVIDGE: The way you said that, it almost sounded like present tense. You don't believe these threats have gone away or those feelings have vaporized.

O'MARA: They haven't. There has been an up-swell in them now that the trial is on. I think now that those people --

SAVIDGE: Someone called the office?

O'MARA: I'm talking mostly of e-mails and things like that. I think we got a couple of calls. But yes, there's still a lot of people. And I think what's happening is now that the trial is progressing and that they're realizing what isn't happening and it's not meeting their expectations, their anger is actually growing. I would hope their anger would subside, they would look at this and go, wait a minute, I have to rethink. Maybe George is not a racist. Maybe it was self- defense. Rather, they're attacking the system. Oh, it's all made up. Oh, it's a racist system. We don't get justice from a conviction. We'll get it our way. They need to trust the system. They need to get past their own prejudices and look at the facts of the case.


LEMON: You heard Mark O'Mara going after the lawyer representing Trayvon Martin's parents, Benjamin Crump. Last night Crump spoke to CNN's Piers Morgan about whether he helped make an unclear portrait of George Zimmerman.


BEN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: They seem to forget that Trayvon Martin was a dead, unarmed kid on the ground who his client profiled, followed, pursued, and shot in the heart. The only thing that brought us into the matter is when they told Trayvon's father that they were not going to arrest the killer of his unarmed son, who only had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea walking home from the 7-Eleven, doing everything he legally had the right to do.

So what do you tell parents like Tracy and Sybrina whose child was only trying to walk home and was profiled for whatever reason? We don't know if George Zimmerman was a racist or not, but we do know he profiled Trayvon Martin for some reason and got out of that car with a .9-millimeter gun and pursued him. If we would not have gotten involved, as Tracy Martin told me when I first talked to him, they said they're not going to do anything about it.

And I didn't believe that, Piers. I did not believe that as a lawyer. I said, hold on, let me make sure I get these facts right, because I know that they would arrest certain people on a hypothesis. They had evidence of a kid, they had a confessed killer, and they weren't going to arrest him. There's something wrong with that. That's why so many people signed those petitions, over 2 million people. They said you can't kill an unarmed kid and not even be arrested.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: Well, up next, Mark O'Mara talks about the jailhouse phone calls between Zimmerman and his wife and why they spoke in code. We're back in a moment.


LEMON: Back now live in Sanford, Florida. I'm Don Lemon, everyone. And just over my shoulder in the courthouse, the jury now deliberating more than eight hours. George Zimmerman is not the only one in legal trouble in his family. His wife Shellie has pleaded not guilty to lying about family finances in civil county court. Mark O'Mara talks about that and just how much money this case has cost so far.


SAVIDGE: Why did George lie about the money that he had available at the bond hearing that was before the trial?

O'MARA: It always sounds like I'm defending him when I shouldn't. But of course he didn't say a word at the bond hearing. Shellie Zimmerman said a couple words to the judge that were interpreted as being less than truthful.

The only explanation I could give, and it sounds like I'm making an excuse, is if it were anyone who had put upon him what George had put upon him, where he had to leave his home, literally, that night. He never went back to his home after the night of the 26th. He was in hiding out of the state, couldn't go back to work, they had to let him go. His wife was released from going to classes as a nursing student. He had absolutely nothing. His mother and father had to leave their home.

So he got a bunch of money from his website, and maybe he tried to hold onto some of it. He didn't hide it. When I found out about it three days after the bond hearing, the first opportunity I had to ask him about anything, and it came up coincidentally, he told me about that and was forward with it. So that's not to me any evidence of a man who is intending to take the money and run or hide it.

SAVIDGE: Phone calls and speaking to his wife, there is a very obvious code.

O'MARA: The obvious nature of the code suggests something as well. He knew the phone calls were being recorded, everybody does, and, by the way, I told him they were, as I do every client. And for whatever reason he decided to use a code. Instead of 10,000 he uses the code 10, or 15 instead of 15,000. Simplistic as it was and as easy to catch as it was, I think that more evidences is his lack of sophistication than some devious mind.

SAVIDGE: Money, money in this case, and there was public appeals, and there was a number of them, were made to raise funds. How much money did you think was needed to defend him?

O'MARA: I think I said at one point $500,000 and then I said $1 million for a defense. That turned out to be a little shy of what we need.

SAVIDGE: And how often were you sort of right there at almost a zero bank account?

O'MARA: Oh, we were at the zero bank account numerous times, and we were -- I have funded this case, and a lot of money I have put into this case, because you can't stop, and people still need to be paid or depositions need to be ordered or depositions need to be taken.

SAVIDGE: You fill the gaps?

O'MARA: Yes. I had to. I mean, you don't just stop. And at that point, my commitment was such that we're going to see this case through trial.

SAVIDGE: Who gave? Who were the people that gave?

O'MARA: It's funny, because we got a lot of $5 contributions, a lot of $100 contributions, a few $1,000 contributions. But if you looked at the range, I would say it was $10 to $100 was most people all over America, a lot of people who are on fixed incomes. I was amazed that people would spend $5 or $10 to us. And they would write letters and say, "I'm on Social Security. I wish I could do more. I'll try to do more next month, but we really feel George deserves a fair trial."

I don't really think it was as much we want -- this is for George as much as it was they thought he was being put upon and not getting a fair trial, and it was this is for a fair trial. Get him to a courtroom and get him there the right way. I think that's what they were doing.

SAVIDGE: Did you get money from white supremacists? And if you did, did that bother you?

O'MARA: If they identified themselves in any form or fashion as being racist, we would not accept the money.

SAVIDGE: Did anybody?

O'MARA: Yes. We sent back -- it might be a dozen or thereabouts of money that came with what I perceived to be inappropriate statements. George doesn't want that money, I don't want that money. We're not going to sully our presence and our position with taking money from somebody who only gives it to us because they think we may be as racist as they are.


LEMON: Up next, Mark O'Mara reveals the lowest point of the case for him. It involves Trayvon Martin's cellphone. Stay right here.


LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. It's the bottom of the hour. I'm Don Lemon live in Sanford for CNN's special coverage of the George Zimmerman trial. Jurors are about to enter their ninth hour of deliberations over George Zimmerman's future. The 29-year-old could be convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter or he could be acquitted. His attorney says confidently the last will happen. And Mark O'Mara says he's had to deal with some pretty dirty tactics and unnecessary politics in his efforts to achieve it. Here again more of Martin Savidge's interview.


O'MARA: Lowest point in the case?

SAVIDGE: Buildup, during, what for you was when you really began to wonder about, is this the right commitment?

O'MARA: I was frustrated on several occasions about the discovery. I was very upset with the way that I thought discovery wasn't being forwarded, because that's just not the way this was supposed to happen. We're supposed to have two good litigants and two good advocates, and that you're supposed to try hard but you're supposed to try fair. And I was very frustrated with some of the discovery concerns. So those were low points. And I guess the low points were exacerbated when I thought I wasn't getting the relief that I wanted from the judge in response to those concerns. So that was a low point for me.

SAVIDGE: Is it that you think the prosecution was being underhanded, or were they being ethically wrong?

O'MARA: When it takes me six months to get a color picture of my client when the first one I get is a black and white, when I look at it and go, this is off a cellphone. Cellphones don't take black and white pictures, and I asked for a color copy, that takes two months. Then I get a pastel colored photo copy of it. It takes me to file a motion and have a hearing set before I get the actual jpeg, no, that's frustrating. That should not happen. I've done this too long to make believe in my own mind that that's happenstance.

SAVIDGE: I'm trying to understand the level. Is it that they were just playing hardball, or they were really out to sabotage your case?

O'MARA: We know there was stuff out concerning information on the phone.

SAVIDGE: This is Trayvon Martin's cellphone?

O'MARA: Trayvon Martin's cellphone. And the only way we really found out about the intensity of the failure to give us the information was when a person from their own office, a whistleblower, came forward and said, I gave them that information in the middle to end of January, and we didn't get it until June 4th. When those prosecutors say, don't worry about it, we're going to get somebody else involved to take care of it, we'll take care of it, and four months, four and a half months pass by, that's not happenstance.

SAVIDGE: How much of this was politics?

O'MARA: It's guesswork on my behalf, but if I enter into this formula an element or ingredient of politics, a lot more makes sense, a lot more about the way the case was handled early on, the way it was turned into a racial event when seemingly, and now positively, it wasn't. When a special prosecutor is brought in when there doesn't seem to be any reason why -- you know, Wolfinger, the sitting prosecutor, had a perfect opportunity to handle this case. As a matter of fact I've deposed three of his assistants who were busting their butts on this case. So they were ready to go forward, and we had a grand jury set.

So when a special prosecutor comes in and then waives the grand jury and then files charges that most good legal analysts, including Alan Dershowitz, say that's an abomination, you have to wonder if there's not outside influences pressuring decisions.

SAVIDGE: That's an incredible indictment of the state of Florida to say justice became secondary to what may have fit politics?

O'MARA: Well, justice is going to come with the acquittal. But it certainly seemed to have been pressured and tamped down by outside influences. And I would like to have a crystal ball to know who started it and who is truly responsible for it, but I can certainly feel the pressures myself.

SAVIDGE: Would you have believed that before this trial?

O'MARA: In a Grisham novel, yes. In real life -- and I'm not Pollyanna-ish, I've done this way too long -- but I'm surprised that in 2012 we are at the point where that could possibly happen.

SAVIDGE: Much has been made about race in this case. Where do you see race in this case?

O'MARA: I see race being injected into this case in the first week that it existed. And I see that it's never left this case, even though time and time and time again race has been proven not to have been an element in George's consideration that night.

I see attorneys who say, for weeks ago, that this is the most significant civil rights trial of the century, and then I see his partner a week ago saying, race has nothing to do with this case. So I only wish they would have said race has nothing to do with this case in, let's say, March 15, or March 16, which was the day they heard the tape, any time before they allowed the pressures and the animosities to foment to the point where there was all these concerns over civil unrest, riots, whatever you want to call it. I only wish we would have thought more about the damage to this system by the way this was presented.

I had -- there was somebody I saw on TV a year ago, and what they said -- it was a commentator out of New York -- he was asked by one of the people, and he said, no matter what happens with this case, it's going to be bad for America. And that is so prophetic and troubling to me, because, unfortunately, we have such a divide over this case in our country that half of the people, if not by numbers, at least by philosophy, half of the country is going to be upset with the verdict. It's absurd, and it's absurd that 75 percent of the people who were asked about whether or not George Zimmerman could get a fair trial a month before the trial started said no.


LEMON: CNN has reached out to the prosecutors in this case for an interview, but they are choosing not to make any public statements until after a verdict is reached.

And up next on here CNN, Mark O'Mara talks about the six women in charge of this case and reveals how the defense lawyers and prosecutors decided on the jury. We're back in a moment, live from Sanford.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon, live in Sanford, Florida. Now to the six women will decide if George Zimmerman is a murder. His attorney said says he wished there were some men on the jury, and he talked about the two specific people he knows will carry a lot of weight with the women, the mother and father of Trayvon Martin. Martin Savidge continues his conversation with Zimmerman's lead attorney right now.


SAVIDGE: Let's talk about the makeup of the jury.


SAVIDGE: First of all, it's six people.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: It's six women.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: One person of color and five who are mothers, correct?

O'MARA: Yes. Interesting, because the jury selection process is very intriguing to me. I enjoy the process.

SAVIDGE: Is this the jury you wanted?

O'MARA: Yes, in this way. When we were going through it, I was surprised the state struck the first black male that they struck. I was surprised by that. Once they had done that, then they seemed to be moving down the path, just getting rid of a bunch of white women, and I think that's inappropriate. And I challenged them on that, and the judge agreed with me that they were removing women, white women, because they were white women. So we ended up having two more on, so that brought us up to four, and then we went further down the list.

So in my perfect jury, I would like more of a demographic switch, maybe more males, but I'm very OK with the six people that we have now for reasons that we talked about. I think they're very attentive and are listening.

SAVIDGE: Do you think a man might take the self-defense, hear that differently than, say, or six women, five of whom are a mother?

O'MARA: It's so hard to say. I've been batting about zero and picking what juries are going to do and what they're thinking. My greatest failing is I wish I could get inside a jury room just once. But having said that, I think women are going to be very sensitized to the fact that a son has been lost, Trayvon Martin has been lost. And that will be a sensitivity they will have. On the other hand, I think they'll be aware what it's like to be in a situation where you might be being victimized and have to react to that.

SAVIDGE: You took I think what some might consider risks during the trial, one of them being that you cross-examined a grieving mother.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: Any regrets on that?

O'MARA: No. I hope that people think, or I think, that I handled it properly and respectfully. I have handled, I think, 40 or so murder cases, and in every one of those murder cases you're going to have some interaction with the victim's family.

SAVIDGE: Have you done that before? Have you talked to a grieving mother in another case?

O'MARA: Many times. Many times, both in trial where I've cross- examined them, and certainly outside of trial in a courtroom where we try to work out something. It is just one of the elements of being a criminal defense attorney, dealing with a victim's family, whether it's a victim of a burglary, a robbery, or in this case, a death. You try and do it with sensitivity, but you still have to do it.

SAVIDGE: And you did Tracy Martin as well.

O'MARA: Yes.

SAVIDGE: And that one didn't seem to go quite so well.

O'MARA: Well, I think that the state should have put Tracy Martin on. That's their witness. I think it was strange that they decided not to call the father of the victim, but they did so because of the very reason that I had to call him, which was that Tracy Martin told two cops who testified who were present, that when he listened to that tape, that was not his son.

SAVIDGE: But that's not what he said on the stand.

O'MARA: That is not. But it is what two cops said and two other cops who were available to say that he said, no, that's not my son's voice. Now, it's got to be extraordinarily difficult to be in Tracy Martin's shoes and Sybrina Fulton's shoes. They have to be able to go through life believing in their heart and in their soul that that is Trayvon Martin's voice. It makes their burden a little bit easier. It has to. And I'm very OK with that. I sympathize with that as best I can.

SAVIDGE: Is that what you meant when you asked -- and I believe you asked this of Trayvon's mother -- that she hoped to hear his voice?

O'MARA: How could she not? Because we know, being able to analyze it in the cold light of day, we know that one of two things were evident on that tape. Trayvon Martin was screaming for help and George Zimmerman murdered him. Two, George Zimmerman was screaming for help because he was being battered by Trayvon Martin and he reacted to that battering by shooting Trayvon Martin. If you're the mother, the friend, the father, how could you not want that to be the first alternative rather than the second?

SAVIDGE: But then you turned it on her by saying that, and if it isn't your son, then you must come to the recognition that your son was doing what George Zimmerman says he was doing.

O'MARA: That's the other side of the same coin. Was that question too much? Maybe I should look at the tape. I don't know. But I felt as though the jury had to hear and understand the sensitivities of what was going on in a grieving mother's mind when she's listening to a tape that meant one of two things.


LEMON: Well, the parents of Trayvon Martin are not going to speak publicly until after the verdict. But in May, Tracy Martin spoke to HLN, our sister network. And he said hearing his son's voice on the 911 call deeply troubled him and he would get some comfort from a conviction.


TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: This case is, to me, says that it's not OK for -- it's not OK for vigilantes to kill our kids and get away with it. And I think I have every right, as anybody else who cries out for their kid, I think I have every right to do all the protesting and be his voice.


LEMON: Up next here on CNN, she is perhaps the most talked-about witness in the entire case. So what does Mark O'Mara think of Rachel Jeantel? His surprising answer and his theory on her story just moments away.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon live in Sanford, Florida. The jury in the George Zimmerman trial is now entering its ninth hour of deliberations. Let's play the final part of the interview between CNN's Martin Savidge and lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara. O'Mara opens up about the most controversial witness in the case, Trayvon Martin's friend, Rachel Jeantel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SAVIDGE: Rachel Jeantel, what did you think of her as a witness?

O'MARA: Here's what I think about Rachel Jeantel myself. I think that she was a reluctant witness who didn't want to be there. I think her mom and Miss Fulton got together and said something like, you need to go tell this woman what happened to her son and do it now. I think that's what happened. I think she was reluctant --

SAVIDGE: So you think she was manipulated?

O'MARA: I wouldn't even say something that bad. If it was my son or daughter and she saw something, I would say go tell her what happened to her son. I don't think that was manipulation.

SAVIDGE: How much do you think was embellishment and how much was actual fact in the testimony?

O'MARA: I think what happened was once she was put in a position of having to talk, we know that what she did was smooth over some a lot of the rough spots of what Trayvon was talking to her about. We know that she didn't talk about the racist terms he may have used or the colorful language he may have used. And I think what she did was just give a sanitized version to mom, because after all, I think she was being sensitive to Ms. Fulton having just lost her son.

We know that Rachel Jeantel, who is said to be the 16-year-old girlfriend of Trayvon Martin, we know that's not true. We know she's 18 years old and they only really reacquainted two weeks before. So we know there was not the connectivity that was presentation early on, and that of course existed in Ms. Jeantel's mind.

So she tells the story to Ms. Fulton over the phone in a very weird, awkward way, and then it's exacerbated by Mr. De La Rionda having her retell the story with Ms. Fulton sitting on the couch crying. It's the worst way to present a witness. It should never have been in front of the victim's mother.

Having said all of that, I think Ms. Jeantel came across as being not wanting to be there, I think she had a bit of an attitude because she was there. I don't think she took very kindly to the way Mr. West was examining her --

SAVIDGE: I think you're quite right, yes.

O'MARA: And I think that showed, and I give her her due in that she didn't want to be involved in our system. She was thrust into our system, one that she's completely unaware of, and she was sort of stuck and prodded. If you put me in a hospital and started sticking needles in my arm and pulling blood, I resist. And I think that's what she did.

SAVIDGE: Bernie De La Rionda, what do you think of him?

O'MARA: He's a career prosecutor who I've never been up against before, and he handles his case load different than I ever did as a prosecutor. And I have concerns about the discovery perspective. I think that my view of things like other information we were supposed to get from prosecutors is at the very least a much different definition than he has.

SAVIDGE: So he is a snake, he's a liar?

O'MARA: I think that he has -- I think he's probably more used to running against public defenders in cases that he gets to cherry pick and that he has overwhelming evidence, and that some of the nuances of how he handles discovery don't come to light. I don't think that Don and I have presented ourselves as a couple of young public defenders.

SAVIDGE: Judge Debra Nelson, there are people who watch, and these are just people watching on television -- would say that she hates you, or hates the defense.

O'MARA: She doesn't, and she doesn't hate me or the defense.

SAVIDGE: So what goes on in the sidebars? Of course, we don't hear it, we only see. It seems terse, it seems awkward, it seems like many of the rulings went against the defense. So it would be wrong to say that the judge doesn't like you personally?

O'MARA: It would be wrong. Actually, I've known Debra Nelson for years, Judge Nelson, for years and years. She's been on the bench for a long time. She's known to be stern and strict and to know the law. I will tell you, and I'm just not placating her, you will note that even though the rulings didn't go our way like I would like them to, she was always well prepared. She does her case law research. She does her homework. You mention a case, she knows the case. Those are signs of a very good judge.

SAVIDGE: The walkout?

O'MARA: Frustrated at 10:00 at night. I think a lot of people were acting out of frustration at that 10:00 hearing. So she's human. She's got a jury out there, she's got a high-profile case, she's got a lot of animosity between the parties that is fairly apparent, and she's trying to do everything she can to keep the peace and to protect her jury from undue influence. So she's got a very tough job.

SAVIDGE: Do you think that George Zimmerman, your client, if he's acquitted, what kind of life will he have?

O'MARA: Not a good one. I think he has to live mostly in hiding. He's got to be able to protect himself from that periphery that still believe that he's some racist murder or acted in a bad way, and you don't know who they are. You don't know if they're down the street or if they're across the country. I think that he's probably concerned about living, still, in central Florida and never having a normal life.

SAVIDGE: His life will never be the same?

O'MARA: Never, ever, ever be the same.

SAVIDGE: Never be able to go to work or have a regular job?

O'MARA: I don't know how he gets a job where he is out in public without having the fear of somebody finding out where he works.

SAVIDGE: Do you think someone will continue to want to hunt him even if a jury says, you are not guilty?

O'MARA: We know there are crazies out there. We know there are people out there who don't listen to common sense, who don't act rationally. I can show you a couple dozen e-mails of people who are vicious in their hatred for George Zimmerman and for me. It's absurd, but they're there. So I don't know which is the one who is going to walk down the street the same time George does. They know what he looks like. He doesn't know what they look like.

SAVIDGE: Is this the case you want to be remembered for?

O'MARA: Well, I'd like to wait until an acquittal happens before I'm remembered for it, but, yes, I'm OK with that for this reason -- I think that I've handled myself well. I think that I've looked at a case that's very difficult in a number of different facets -- media, racial issues, the fact it's a murder, vocal family, other attorneys involved, and I think that I've handled it in a way that has maintained my respect for myself, which, I guess, is very important to me, but much more important to that is that I've respected or maintained a respect for the system, and I've been able to sort of juggle all of those sensitivities without compromising my client's right to a fair trial or my zealous representation of him. So I'm feeling pretty good about what I've done so far, to be honest, and not to sound egoist.

SAVIDGE: As the jury deliberates, are you nervous? Are you anxious? Do you have some kind of ritual that calms you? What will be happening?

O'MARA: I can't eat, I can't work. I just have to wait. It is the worst thing. It's sort of like waiting for a child to be born or something. You're just waiting and you just don't know and you're anticipating it, fearing it at the same time, of course. But, no, you don't do anything but wait. I don't think there's anything else you can do.


LEMON: I'm Don Lemon. Our special coverage of the George Zimmerman trial continues after a quick break.