Peterson described Zimmerman as mature, friendly and helpful to his neighbors.
A former Seminole State College criminal justice student, Zimmerman was raised in Virginia and moved to Central Florida after high school. He lived alone in his parents’ house for several years until his parents retired and joined him in Florida .
He is married to Shellie, a nursing student. His father, Robert Sr., is a retired magistrate, which many critics believe was a chief reason that Zimmerman was afforded the benefit of the doubt by police.
But the Zimmermans blame the frenzy on Martin family lawyers, who brought in national civil-rights leaders and ignored the fact that their son is Hispanic.
“There was a creation of a racial narrative, because basing the story on the merits of the crime was not sufficiently sensational to those who wanted to report more,” Zimmerman’s brother Robert told Univision. “Racism is a lucrative sport. Many people have their hands in a money bag, and there’s a lot of money to be made."
Much of that criticism has been aimed at Trayvon’s parents, who have collected donations for an advocacy foundation they created in their son’s name.
The Zimmermans focus much of their ire on Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney whose constant media exposure forced law enforcement to take a second look at the case. Crump, who has filed a claim with the homeowners association where Zimmerman served as crime watch coordinator, has yet to bill in the case. Neither has Zimmerman’s defense team.
Crump thinks back on the furor, the day marchers shut down Broadway, the rallies in Sanford, the dozens of Miami-Dade schools where students walked out in protest, and feels no regret. He said history has shown that when blacks are killed by whites, particularly whites acting in a law-enforcement capacity, the only way to get a case going is by turning to the media.
In the months since Trayvon’s death, Crump has taken on at least three more similar cases.
“Little brown boys and little brown girls get killed and nobody cares until we make a fuss,” Crump said. “They were so comfortable sweeping it under the rug like they didn’t matter.”
Crump said people often ask whether, after so much publicity, Zimmerman can get a fair trial.
“In my mind, the question is, can a little black boy get murdered in the south and get justice?” Crump said. “Can Trayvon get justice?”
Although Sanford’s police chief publicly said there was not enough evidence to file charges, Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor from Duval County , who filed a second-degree murder charge. The Sanford police chief was fired.
A trial is scheduled for June 10, and a self-defense immunity hearing will be held in the spring. At that hearing the judge will decide whether to throw out the case and offer Zimmerman immunity from both civil suits and criminal prosecution.
“My guy is innocent and the evidence strongly supports that,” O’Mara said in an interview earlier this month. “Someone should drop $1 million in his defense fund account so he can get a real defense. He’s been put through the wringer.”
For their activism, Trayvon’s parents were skewered by right-wing bloggers, who tried to embarrass them by revealing personal information and photos. Trayvon’s profanity-laced social media comments were picked over and scrutinized, and the parents were criticized for releasing angelic-looking photos of a teenager whose Twitter profile showed teeth covered by a removable gold grill.
“People try to say I did all this for money. I go to work every day. We have been hard-working people for 30 years. I have never even claimed unemployment,” Martin said. “The thing that gets me is that they [the Zimmermans] talk about how they are living like hermits.
“How do they think we’re living? Our son is dead.”
As for Zimmerman living in fear, don’t look to Trayvon’s parents for sympathy.
“He took that on,” Martin said. “I don’t feel sorry for him.”
Fulton said it still hurts when she hears negative things said about her son. She wishes she had talked more about his personality, how he liked going skating, talking to girls on the phone and how he practically lived at Forzano Park in Miramar . That’s where he played football and worked in the concession stand.
“They want us to be quiet and walk away,” Fulton said.
“I want the legacy of Trayvon Martin to stand for something, so no other families go through what we did.”