Dad: 'If Trayvon had been white,' this wouldn't have happened
The parents of Trayvon Martin are "still shocked; still in disbelief" after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting of their son.
One of the jurors, identified only as B37, believed Zimmerman did not racially profile Martin, an African-American, and race did not play a role in the shooting, she told CNN.
"Obviously any time you have a person that makes an assumption that a person is up to no good, there's some type of profiling there,'' Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin, told Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday. "Was he racially profiled? I think that if Trayvon had been white, this wouldn't have never happened. Obviously race is playing some type of role."
"We felt in our hearts that we were going to get a conviction," said Martin. "We thought that the killer of our unarmed child was going to be convicted of the crime that he committed."
On July 14, a jury of six women who deliberated for 16 hours over two days found Zimmerman, 29, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. The jury found that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force when he shot Martin, 17, in a confrontation in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.
Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, said after the verdict that race was not a factor in the shooting.
“I think that things would have been different if George Zimmerman was black for this reason: he never would have been charged with a crime,” he said, adding, "The facts that night, (it) was not borne out that he acted in a racial way. His history is a non-racist.”
Zimmerman, O'Mara said, had been made a “scapegoat” by civil rights advocates.
"I think that (the prosecution) cut down to the heart of the matter,'' Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin's parents, told Lauer. "If the roles were reversed, what would the verdict have been?"
"I think (the legal system) failed Trayvon to a certain degree," Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told Lauer. "I think we let the process take its course. We didn't get the verdict that we were looking for because we wanted (Zimmerman) to be held accountable. Our focus has continued to change. First it was for the arrest, then it was for a conviction. So now we've moved on to a different focus, but yes, I think we were disappointed."
Juror B37 also told CNN that she also believed it was Zimmerman's voice heard crying out right before the fatal gunshot on a much-disputed 911 tape.
"I totally disagree,'' Martin said. "She can only make that assumption because she may have heard George Zimmerman speak in the court. She never had a chance to hear Trayvon's voice. We know in our hearts that that was our child screaming for help."
The verdict has sparked debates about race and guns in America and numerous protests across the country, including ones in Los Angeles and Oakland that resulted in arrests. Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network president and MSNBC host, has announced that 100 vigils on Saturday across the country will be followed by marches in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee, Fla.
"We have always maintained to do things decent and in order, and we think the protests should be peaceful protests,'' Fulton said. "We're not saying for them not to protest because they have a right to protest. They have a right to be heard. We just want to make sure that it is peaceful, that nobody gets hurt, that nobody gets arrested, (and) that you don't damage your own property."
Fulton and Martin were not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
"I really don't have anything personal to say (to the jurors),'' Martin said. "I just didn't understand how can you let the killer of an unarmed child go free. What would your verdict have been had it been your child? There's no winners in this case at all. It's just I want them to put themselves in our shoes."
Zimmerman is also the focus of a federal investigation, which was opened by the FBI in March of 2012 but was put on hold pending the outcome of the trial.
"We would like for the federal government to look into it and weigh all of the options,'' Martin said. "As parents, we just feel that there could've been something more done."
Legal experts told NBC's Pete Williamsit would be surprising if the federal government filed a criminal case against George Zimmerman.
"Based on what's in the public eye, it would be very difficult to get a conviction in this case," said Samuel Bagenstos, a former top official in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
"Proving what's on somebody else's mind is as difficult thing to do in the law as possible."
Zimmerman's parents and attorney have said he has been in hiding since the verdict and has received death threats. Lauer asked Martin and Fulton about Zimmerman's post-trial life.
"We don't know about that, but what we do know about is the victims,'' Fulton said. "We sit on the victims' seat, so is this the intent for the justice system to have for victims? It's sending a terrible message to other little black and brown boys that you can't walk fast, you can't walk slow, so what do they do? How do you get home without people knowing or either assuming that you're doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn't doing anything wrong."
Martin's parents, who have often cited their religious faith, were asked if they have forgiven Zimmerman.
"I think that the forgiveness is like a healing process,'' Martin said. "Forgiveness takes time. The Bible says that you have to forgive and forget. The healing process is a long process and the forgiving process is a long process."
Martin and Fulton are also throwing their energy into their Trayvon Martin Foundation, which offers mentoring and scholarships and looks to educate communities on gun laws.
"Nothing we say or do can get Trayvon back,'' Martin said. "Maybe we can help someone else not lose their child."
George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.