The lawyer representing George Zimmerman, the volunteer neighborhood watchman who fatally shot Trayvan Martin in February, insisted that his client is not a racist, during an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday.
The defense attorney, Craig Sonner, told Burnett that, following conversations with Zimmerman, he was confident that his client's actions were not motivated by racial prejudice:
At this point, it seems like the case has spiraled into being an issue over race. And, upon talking with my client, I don't believe that's the case at all. I talked with him and people who know him, and he's not known for being a racist. Whatever transpired that night, I think the issue is whether it was an issue of self-defense, or what actually occurred that night, rather than an issue of race.
Sonner went on to point out that Zimmerman once served as a mentor to two African American children, and also did volunteer work for a predominantly African American congregation.
Whatever the case may be, racial politics have helped propel the case into the national spotlight, inviting responses from politicians on both sides of the aisle. President Obama commented on the shooting on Friday, calling it a tragedy and remarking that, "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." Others, such as Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich, maintain that the shooting, while tragic, was unequivocally not about race.
Sonner refused to share the details of his conversations with Zimmerman, citing attorney-client privilege, but did say that the former neighborhood watchman has cooperated with the investigation. He also declined to share any of the specifics of his defense strategy, saying:
I don't know what all the evidence is, and what transpired that night. That's what the trial's going to be about, and that's hopefully what the trial will stay about, and not about being angry over a racial issue.
He went on: "My client claims that it was self-defense, and of course I'm inclined to believe him."