REPORTING FROM SANFORD, FLORIDA — The elder brother of George Zimmerman says his family is convinced that his younger sibling will be exonerated of any wrongdoing in the killing of Trayvon Martin and that the death of the unarmed teenager has been viewed too widely through a prism of race.
Speaking with BET.com at the beginning of the his brother’s trial on charges of second-degree murder, Robert Zimmerman Jr. also said that his family’s life has been unsettled and disrupted since George Zimmerman’s arrest in the death of Martin a year ago.
“As a family, we’re very confident and we’re very confident that the state will not be able to prove its case against George,” Zimmerman said. “We’re confident in the case and the legal team.”
Over the last year, Robert Zimmerman has emerged as a passionate, yet controversial defender of his younger brother, the onetime neighborhood watch volunteer who shot an unarmed teenager in a darkened, gated community in February 2012.
George Zimmerman has maintained that he shot the African-American teenager in self-defense, after being attacked. The prosecution has maintained that Trayvon Martin was shot by an overzealous assailant in an incident where race played a prominent role.
In the interview, Robert Zimmerman criticized the lawyers for the parents of Trayvon Martin, asserting that they were inflaming racial tensions by insisting that race played a role in the way the case has preceded.
“Our family is saddened that this has become a racial issue,” Zimmerman said. “There are wrong messages that can be sent out by that race has something to do with self-defense. It doesn’t sit well with me that the attorneys for Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton went out and continually made the case that, had the shooter been black he would have been arrested.”
He continued: “I’m saddened that race became such a factor because I think it actually took us backwards. I think this tragedy was exacerbated by a racial component that would have better been addressed in another case. Now that we’re having the conversation, I welcome it. But I don’t think this is necessarily the case.”
Yet, Robert Zimmerman has spoken periodically to the press and through social media in statements where race played a role, sometimes followed by great controversy.
Earlier this year, for example, he made some racially charged comparisons on Twitter comparing Trayvon Martin with alleged killer De’Marquis Elkins. Elkins is a Georgia teenager accused of killing a 13-month-old boy. Georgia. Zimmerman shared an image that showed Martin and Elkins side by side, holding up their middle fingers.
In his Tweets, Zimmerman questioned why "Blacks mightB risky" to society and said that the media cast Trayvon Martin in a "child-like light and my bro as a villain."
The older Zimmerman, a classical singer who said he has not been able to work professionally since his brother’s arrest, explained that his family has lived in virtual seclusion for the last year or longer.
“It’s been very bizarre living in isolation for over a year,” Zimmerman said. “I mean, not having any meaningful interaction with anyone, not being able to just meet people and talk to people and talk casually as you would on the street. Outing someone with the last name Zimmerman right now is really dangerous.”
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(Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)