Mark O’Mara: Before I Knew Him, I Thought George Zimmerman Was Racist

Thanks to the media’s habit of showing beatific, outdated photos of Trayvon Martin, many Americans who only casually followed the trial of George Zimmerman incorrectly believed Martin to have been younger than he actually was at the time of his death. In a Friday interview, Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, Mark O’Mara admitted that he was one of them.

Speaking with CNN correspondent Martin Savidge, O’Mara denounced what he called a “wonderfully created and crafted public relations campaign” by the attorney for Martin’s family, Benjamin Crump and his allies. According to O’Mara, had they not injected a racial element into the story, Zimmerman would never have been tried.

Such was the power of the narrative of a bruising white man deliberately gunning down a small boy out of racial malice that even O’Mara, a seasoned defense attorney very familiar with media sensationalism, bought into it.

Asked by Savidge about if he believed George Zimmerman to be a racist before meeting him, O’Mara said he had no doubts:

“When I saw the 12-year-old Trayvon Martin picture and the 270-pound George Zimmerman picture, yes, no question,” O’Mara said.

He was soon surprised when he actually met Zimmerman. Realizing the media myth was untrue was “one of the most amazing sights,” O’Mara said. Unfortunately, according to the lawyer, there are many people who continue to buy into the hype, all because of the photos.

“I think that’s why most of the people who believe that 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.”

Certainly that was the case with prosecution witness Jeannee Manalao who admitted under cross-examination that she had also been fooled by the outdated photos of Martin.

Under further questioning from Savidge about what even he admitted was an “imagery dichtomy” (aka double standard), O’Mara went into detail about how he believed so many people could believe something so obviously false:

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 George Zimmerman. He was in what looked like jail attire. And then you had a very, very young looking Trayvon Martin. Whose fault is that?

O’MARA: It was a wonderfully created and crafted public relations campaign by the people who are assisting the Martin family. That’s Ben Crump and other people.

I don’t -- I don’t discredit what he did, as long as he acknowledges that’s exactly what happened.

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

O’MARA: No, Ben Crump or someone like him, because had Ben Crump not gotten involved in the case, maybe for some good reasons to begin with -- if he believed that there was something here that was being swept under the rug, then get on into it. I’m very OK with that. I...

SAVIDGE: But you didn’t quite say it that way. You made it sound like it was 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 that it was a made-up story for purposes that had nothing to do with George Zimmerman, and that they victimized him. They complain about Trayvon Martin being victimized. George Zimmerman was victimized by a publicity campaign to smear him, to call him a racist when he wasn’t and to call him a murderer when he wasn’t.

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

O’MARA: Oh, I don’t know that 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, impaneled and ready to take on the case for the state of Florida vs. George Zimmerman and determine whether or not there was enough evidence and enough information to charge him with any crime.

Rather than do that, which was the default position that could have happened, they decided to have a press conference, pray with the victim’s family, and then announce second-degree murder charges.

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 was brought in, when there doesn’t seem to be any reason why -- you know, Wolfinger, the sitting prosecutor, had the perfect opportunity to handle this case.

Matter of fact, I have 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, 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 some outside influencing pressuring decisions.

You can read the entire transcript of the interview here. For more details on how the PR campaign behind Martin’s death, see this report from the blog Conservative Treehouse.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013