TODAY   |  March 25, 2012

Zimmerman’s attorney speaks out

An attorney for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain forced into hiding because of threats in the wake of the shooting death of Tray the von Martin, speaks to TODAY’s Lester Holt about the case.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> joining us. joe, let me start with you. you spoke to george zimmerman as recently as yesterday. how is he weathering the storm around him and how aware is he, if at all, of the things we just showed?

>> i think george is just now becoming aware of how big this is. it was the first time i spoke to him yesterday since before the shooting, and through his family members, i learned that right after the shooting, he couldn't stop crying. he's at the point now where he's just now realizing not just how big this is for him but how big this is for the country, which is one reason why i'm sitting here now.

>> craig , mr. zimmerman claims self-defense with police originally. you're standing by that defense of him. what's the evidence of self-defense here?

>> well, what i can reveal right now -- i mean, i don't want to litigate this case in the media.

>> sure.

>> i want to litigate it in court. but george zimmerman suffered a broken nose, an injury, a gash to the back of his head. there were grass stains on the back of his shirt. and he claims that trayvon martin struck him and he went down and he was acring e iacting in self-defense.

>> as you know, a number of neighbors heard things some saw things. tonight on " dateline nbc ," we're going to hear from a neighbor who said through her open window she heard a whining sound, as of a young voice, then a gunshot. i want you to hear what she then sees and get your thoughts on it. here it is.

>> we heard the gunshot, and someone ran. within seconds was out on the back porch.

>> tell me your roommate --

>> my roommate.

>> -- went out first.

>> she went out first. she said she did not think it was a gunshot, maybe kids playing and something hit the sign, you know, something had happened. and i was out within seconds after her, i was outside. and we both saw him straddling the body, basically, a foot on both sides of trayvon's body, and his hands pressed on his back.

>> and she goes on to say that trayvon was face down. was that consistent with what george zimmerman has described to you?

>> well, again, that's going to be something that's going to come out in litigation. i think there were efforts made to render aid to trayvon after the incident.

>> what kind of details has he offered to you?

>> well, he has offered details, again, that you know, can't really be discussed, which is one reason why he isn't speaking. i mean, he's been told not to say anything. one of the weird things for me about this case is that living in florida, i've seen historically police release information when they have an arrest, when they've made an arrest, and which eventually leads to the trial being tried in the media. casey anthony, a perfect example, because of all the information we had before the trial. this is different, because the sanford police department is trying to make sure they did everything right, and i think that's why you saw them pass it on to the state's attorney general, who passed it on to another state's attorney, and now that's why we have this grand jury hearing. sanford has a history of racism. i've reported on stories similar to this in where white males killed a black teen. so, they have to go -- they're trying to do everything they can to prevent what has happened.

>> we keep coming back to the fact, though, that trayvon didn't do anything. he went to the store. for whatever reason, he was singled out as suspicious. do we know what brought the two of them together? we hear that witness testimony as someone heard something and came up. but do we know what brought them together in an altercation?

>> that's the thing. no one knows what actually started the altercation. we know that george was working as a neighborhood watch captain in a neighborhood that had had a rash of criminal activity and burglaries. we know george saw someone walking around that he did not recognize and called 911.

>> why did he get out of the car?

>> we don't know.

>> none of this would have happened if he didn't get out of the car.

>> well, and if what george claims is true, none of this would have happened if trayvon just said, i'm staying with my parents.

>> craig , let me ask you. you just saw it in that report, the new black panther party has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of mr. zimmerman . that has to concern you. are you concerned about his safety, given the emotion surrounding all of this?

>> yeah, i've been concerned about his safety for quite some time. there's been a document out that's got his photo on it that shows that says " wanted dead or alive ," and it's got his picture right there on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper. based on that document, it's always been my opinion that he's in danger from someone for the whole time. and i think to not take that seriously would be a mistake. and i think he's been advised by law enforcement and by me to keep a low profile until, you know, things get something resolved, because i believe his life is in danger.

>> but he is in a place that law enforcement can find him and speak to him?

>> yes. i'm able to make contact with him and law enforcement is as well.

>> have you seen him in person?

>> i have not seen him in person.

>> and you are acting as his legal adviser, meaning, will you represent him in any criminal matters?

>> yes, once the case is filed. right now, there's no case for me to enter a notice of appearance to be the attorney of record because there's not a case yet. but when there is one, i will be entering in those appearances.

>> gentlemen, we appreciate your time. thanks for coming on and offering another side of this story. i do appreciate it. craig sauder and joe oliver .