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Zimmerman's Brother: Race 'Wasn't An Element In This Case'

Robert Zimmerman Jr. (left) speaking with defense attorney Mark O'Mara during a pre-trial hearing in May. (Getty Images)

George Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman, Jr., tells NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that despite the acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, it will be a "long time" before his brother's life returns to normal.

"Believe me, he is overwhelmed," the elder brother said in an interview with host Rachel Martin. "And now it is time for him to readjust to that concept of being a free man, in every sense of the word."

George, he said, is "free in the sense of criminal liability. He's a free man, but he's not free in the sense where he's going to have the opportunity to re-engage society in any meaningful way for a long time," he said.

Robert Zimmerman, who has acted as the family spokesman throughout the media flurry surrounding the incident and the trial, said he's received numerous threats via social media. "They're on my Twitter feed," he said.

"I get hate emails saying 'I wish someone would blow up your family with grenades' [and] 'I will find you on the streets and kill you' — that's just some of the threats constantly directed at me," he said. "There's no way, really, to direct those threats at George, I guess because George doesn't have right now a social media presence."

He added: "It's a reality that some people don't respect this verdict and think that they want to take justice into their own hands."

Zimmerman echoed the defense team's assertion that race "wasn't an element in this case" and blamed the media for making it into an issue.

"NBC had a lot to do with pushing that narrative by editing George's non-emergency call to the police to suggest ... that George had called the police to report a person who was suspicious because he's black, because he's wearing a hoodie," he said.

Asked whether he ever questions his brother's decision to shoot during the fatal confrontation of Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman said "absolutely not."

"I never have a moment where I think that my brother may have been wrong to shoot," he told Martin. "And I think it's not really important what I think, it's important what the jury thinks and what the jury found."

Zimmerman said he takes "exception" to the notion that Trayvon Martin was "unarmed" just because he didn't have a gun.

"He used the sidewalk against my brother's head," he said.

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Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And we are joined now by George Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr.; the only brother of the man acquitted late last night in the death of Trayvon Martin. Welcome to the program, sir.

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN JR.: Good morning, Rachel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So this was - obviously - a very emotional moment for your family. I know that you, yourself, were not in the courtroom but your brother, George Zimmerman, showed scarcely any reaction when the verdict was read. I wonder what he has said to you, and the rest of your family, about what he is feeling.

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, you know, I think that's true. George has been, I guess - I don't want to use the word criticized, but much has been made of his lack of reaction or kind of his steady-as-you-go approach to life. But believe me, he is overwhelmed. I think that it is - now, it's time for him to readjust to that concept of being a free man, in every sense of the word. He has a lot of readjusting to do. It was an emotional moment for our family.

And I was not in the courtroom because we all did anticipate - very cautiously - but we did anticipate a not-guilty verdict. So I had to leave Florida in order to be able to be here, in New York City, to address the media upon that verdict.

MARTIN: Last night, you said to CNN that you are worried about your brother's future. You said your brother will be, quote, "looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life." Can you explain that?

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, I mean, the threats are ongoing. They're on my Twitter feed. I get hate emails; people saying, I wish someone would blow up your family with grenades. I will find you on the streets and kill you.

And that's just some threats constantly directed at me. There's no way, really, to direct those threats at George, I guess, because George doesn't have - right now - a social media presence. But the law firm has talked about those things coming in, and some of the hate mail they receive. And it's the reality that unfortunately, some people don't respect this verdict and think that, you know, that they would like to take justice into their own hands.

The threats are very vile. They're very graphic. They're really disturbing. And George is free from - free in the sense of criminal liability; he's a free man. But he's not free in the sense where he's going to have the opportunity to re-engage society in any meaningful way, for a long time.

MARTIN: This case has become a flashpoint in a national debate about race relations. Do you think that has been justified?

ZIMMERMAN: You know, I think what happened - and this is how I like to think about this race element. It wasn't an element, in this case. NBC had a lot to do with pushing that narrative by editing George's non-emergency call to the police; to suggest by their editing - repeatedly - that George had called the police to report a person who was suspicious because he's black, he's wearing a hoodie. And we believe, and the lawsuit alleges, that that was very deliberate.

Now, I will say that Sanford had a history, in its police department, of having issues with race and equal application, and equal access to justice in that community. And I don't think - well, I know that has nothing to do with George. But I can see where there were concerns initially about - concerns, they were unwarranted, as we know now. But there were concerns that something may be afoot in Sanford. Unfortunately, the pegging of George as a white man was essential to get that narrative traction and get that ball rolling, and it's unfortunate.

MARTIN: Trayvon Martin was unarmed. He was only 17 when he died. I know your brother felt his life was in danger in that moment, on that night, in Sanford. But I wonder, do you ever have a moment when you think your brother may have been wrong to shoot?

ZIMMERMAN: Absolutely not. I never have a moment where I think my brother may have been wrong to shoot. And it's not really important what I think. I think it's more important what the jury thinks, and what the jury found. And what the instruction that speaks to that is, you know, using deadly force in self-defense. I don't think that we need to send the wrong message here, which is that we should be, you know, questioning whether or not we have the right to defend ourselves or how.

Trayvon Martin was armed. He used the sidewalk against my brother's head. He had whatever anger he brought with him when he confronted George and broke his nose. He had a nose-smashing fist. And he had, you know, something within him that he wouldn't let up his relentless attack despite George screaming for help. So he was not unarmed. And I really take exception to that notion.

MARTIN: Obviously, it's a very emotional case, and we appreciate you taking the time. Robert Zimmerman Jr. - he is the brother of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted late last night of second-degree murder and manslaughter by a Florida jury.

You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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