With more than 25,000 expected to attend an afternoon rally in Sanford, Fla., for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed last month by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman's lawyer, Craig Sonner, and family friend Joe Oliver made the rounds on the morning talk show circuit on Monday, arguing that Zimmerman acted in self-defense and is not a racist as some have portrayed him.
"I think we need to let the investigation come forward and let all the facts in this case come out," Sonner said on the "Today" show. "I think it's going to tell a different story than the way it's been related and portrayed in the media."
Martin was shot by Zimmerman on Feb. 26 in a gated Sanford community.
"My point in coming forward right now in the media," Sonner continued, "is not to litigate this case here this morning but is to bring to light the fact that this case has taken on a whole different meaning because it's been interpreted as being a racial issue. And it's not a racial issue. George Zimmerman is absolutely not a racist."
On "Good Morning America," Oliver acknowledged that, "In the big picture, yes, this is a racial issue, but in the thing that sparked it all, this one particular confrontation between the two, it had nothing to do with race."
Of the public outcry, mounting calls for Zimmerman's arrest and subsequent firestorm media attention, Oliver said, "George has virtually lost his life, too."
On "Today," Oliver claimed that Zimmerman is as distraught and remorseful as those who've been mourning Martin's death. "Through his mother-in-law, I learned that he couldn't stop crying for days after the shooting," Oliver said. "I mean, George is just a genuine human being, and he was out there performing his duties as a watch captain because he cared for his neighborhood. We don't know what happened from the time George got out of his vehicle, and by the time the shot went off."
Oliver also dismissed the notion that Zimmerman, who has placed 46 calls to 911 since 2004, was "obsessed" with being in a neighborhood watchman. "I think 'dedicated' is a better word for it," Oliver said. "I didn't even know George had a gun."
In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Oliver denied Zimmerman used the racial slur "coon" on one of the 911 tapes following the shooting. "I heard 'goon,'" he said. "And talking to my teenage daughter, apparently 'goon' is a term of endearment in high school these days."
Oliver continued: "He wasn't talking to Trayvon when that comment was made. He was speaking a generality in that this suspicious person was someone who he—lumped in—as always getting away —goon. I mean, the bottom line, he thought he needed to keep an eye on this individual for whatever reason."
Sonner refused to discuss why his client confronted Martin instead of calling police. "What I can disclose at this point, is that George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, injuries to the back of his head, and [showed] signs of a scuffle, being grass-stained on the back of his shirt."
Zimmerman's family friend said he believes Zimmerman acted in self-defense. "At that point, either George or Trayvon was going to die."
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