April 12, 2012 / 2:16 AM / 6 years ago

Florida shooter Zimmerman is "very lucid": defense attorney

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The new lawyer for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murder in the death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, said on Wednesday he is not concerned with his client’s mental state.

Zimmerman’s previous attorneys withdrew from the racially charged case on Tuesday because they said they had lost contact with their client. At a press conference announcing their withdrawal, the two lawyers had raised concerns about Zimmerman’s mental health.

But a day later, Zimmerman’s new attorney, Mark O‘Mara, said he had talked to his client for more than an hour by telephone and said he seemed “very lucid.”

“He’s OK. I‘m not concerned about his mental well-being right now,” O‘Mara told Reuters on Wednesday in an interview at his office.

“He was rational to me ... we were communicating well,” O‘Mara said. “I think he’s OK. He’s very concerned about the charge. He is troubled by everything that has happened and I cannot imagine living in George Zimmerman’s shoes in the past couple of weeks ... a prisoner wherever he was.”

He told Zimmerman to “stay calm and listen to my advice.”

O‘Mara was hired by the Zimmerman family on Wednesday, about 90 minutes before Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced she was charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, in February.

The decision by the Sanford police in the weeks after the shooting not to charge Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, sparked protests and accusations of racial bias.

Protestors sing in front of the Sanford Police Department after shutting down Police Headquarters in Sanford, Florida, April 9, 2012. Florida State's Attorney Angela Corey announced that she would not use a grand jury in the investigation of the death of Trayvon Martin. Martin, 17, was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on February 26, sparking protests from civil rights groups. REUTERS/David Manning

O‘Mara is a veteran Orlando area criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who was a legal commentator for a local TV station during the high profile Orlando trial last year of Casey Anthony, who was found not guilty of killing her daughter, Caylee.

O‘Mara said he didn’t leap at taking the Zimmerman case, calling it a “mixed blessing” because it’s a high profile, complex and interesting case, but also life altering. “I thought about it for quite awhile,” he said. “It’s going to be invasive to my practice and my life so I did discuss it with my wife and my staff.”

O‘Mara said he expected that Zimmerman would be granted bond, though he couldn’t be sure if the family would be able to pay it, nor had he discussed yet with them if he could find somewhere in the area that was safe for him to live.

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“I think that nobody would deny the fact that if George Zimmerman was walking down the street today he would be at risk,” O‘Mara said.

Now that an arrest had been made and a charge filed O‘Mara said he hoped some of the public outrage might dissipate.

“We need to calm this down. It needs to be tried in a courtroom,” he said.

O‘Mara said he has handled one previous case involving Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm. He would not give any details other than to say it was resolved.

He said he hoped to learn more about his latest case Thursday morning when he meets his client at the county jail in Sanford where Zimmerman arrived Wednesday night.

For the time being, he told reporters, “I know less than most of you about the facts of the case.”

Editing by Eric Beech and David Adams

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