Prosecutors weigh in on George Zimmerman verdict

Zimmerman will always be man who 'profiled, tracked Trayvon Martin,' they say

ORLANDO, Fla. - Days after the most scrutinized case of their careers, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and Lead Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda spoke to Local 6 about the acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

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Minutes after a six-person, all-female jury returned a verdict of not guilty on Saturday night, Corey went before the cameras and said, "We believe we brought out the truth on behalf of Trayvon Martin."

Local 6 investigative reporter Tony Piptone asked Corey how the acquittal speaks to the truth.

"Well, the truth came out in the form of every bit evidence and physical evidence and testimony that we were allowed to put on under our rules of evidence," Corey said.

"But he was not guilty," Pipitone responded.

"Well, a jury found him not guilty. We will always know we made every attempt possible under our laws to hold George Zimmerman accountable for his irresponsible and illegal behavior," Corey said.

Pipitone asked how the state can still call it "illegal behavior" when the jury found it was self-defense.

"No, the jury found that we could not prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt," Corey said.

"But he didn't violate the law. He's not a murderer. What is he?" Pipitone asked.

"He is and always will be a man who profiled and tracked an unarmed teenager. He provoked that teenager. What George Zimmerman did after disobeying that dispatcher and getting out of his truck set the entire set of circumstances into motion," Corey said.

"But it wasn't a crime," Pipitone said.

"That alone wasn't a crime. That combined with his mindset, his profiling, him wanting to be the cop, him wanting to apprehend Trayvon, that's what was all against the law," Corey said.

But the jury didn't appear to see it that way, as the state tried to disprove Zimmerman's claim of self-defense.

"His actions -- he assumed certain things.  Assumptions itself are not a crime, but when you act upon the assumptions and you take steps in following, getting out of a car and following this person, confronting him and shooting him. When Rachel Jeantel said she heard, 'Get off me,' that's a crime," de la Rionda said.

But in weighing whether to believe Jeantel, the jury was told how her statement was obtained under the possible influence of Martin's family and lawyers.

"In an ideal world we'd have a sanitized environment," de la Rionda said. "We didn't have an ideal world.  We had to get her to come forward to talk to us and the way we were able to get her to do it was through the help of the victim's mother."

When asked if Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump "contaminated" Jeantel's interview, de la Rionda responded, "No, not at all. I think what's important to note is her statements have been consistent throughout."

Statements from Jeantel -- that she heard Zimmerman confront and possibly hit Martin -- is evidence the Jacksonville investigation uncovered that the Sanford Police Department investigation did not.

Former Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee told Local 6 last week that he was pressured to rush the case to the state attorney before the investigation could be completed.

Regardless, Corey said she never thought they were losing the case.

"We never thought we were losing this case.  It was a grave disappointment to us. That jury was out for 16 hours and we assumed they were back there listening to all of George Zimmerman's inconsistencies that were in evidence," Corey said. "It's a tough case, but prosecutors can't shy away from tough cases."

But cases handed to the state attorney's office by a governor forced to act by tens of thousands of people marching in the streets aren't tried every day. Corey said, however, that the protests played no role in her charging a case that the defense claims never should have been filed.

"It didn't motivate me at all there are plenty other cases where people have tried to put pressure on us to file, not file (or) not to treat a 12-year-old as an adult in court," Corey said. "We do our jobs as we see fit without regard to petitions, pressure or anything else."

The job required explaining why Martin didn't go home, as the defense proved he clearly could have, during the four minutes between when he started running away from Zimmerman and when the physical confrontation began.

"What do you think happened in those four minutes?" Pipitone asked.

"I think Trayvon Martin was hiding. To me, my gut instinct tells me that the young man would not take the perpetrator he thought was chasing him -- and may be a sexual pervert -- back to the house," de la Rionda said.

Corey then focused on a key, undeniable point.

"The bottom line is,, 'What difference does it make what Trayvon was doing?'" Corey said "He had a right to breathe, to live, to do whatever he wanted to do.  How is it Trayvon Martin's fault how he spent those four minutes? He's supposed to have this man follow him and take him to the back door where a 12-year-old is home alone?"

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