OCALA, Fla., September 5, 2013 — Technically, George Zimmerman walks the streets today a free man. Technically, the multiracial central Florida neighborhood watch captain was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Technically, Zimmerman’s life is his to live without obstacle.
“Technically is a very precise word,” his older brother and de facto public spokesman, Robert, says. “George has endured an altered reality as many of us have for some time now. I don’t foresee George or anyone else living in the normal of the past.
“George has been in the news for fairly normal non-events and that is certainly not a normal reality for most people. George has more reason to be armed and concerned for his security now that he moves about. Before, the isolation insulated him somewhat from being exposed to people who might express hostility, or worse.”
It has been nearly two months since George’s highly controversial and internationally publicized trial ended. Has he been trying to put the Martin shooting’s aftermath behind him, or is he still trying to make sense of what happened?
“The way I see it, there are areas he will be able to slowly move beyond,” Robert opines. “The NBC lawsuit, judicial inquiry into the State Attorney’s office violations of discovery, having meaningful interaction with family and friends are examples of elements that will lend a semblance of normalcy.
“I am certain, in my heart of hearts, he will never be able to move beyond the reality of having taken a life - albeit lawfully & in self-defense - and he will carry that burden for the rest of his life.”
The media spotlight shone on George was intense beyond any rational expectation. Is he coping well with life away from round-the-clock coverage?
“It is apparent that despite acquittal, the media is still interested in his life,” Robert observes. “I think our family had a small luxury in the sense that we had to learn to survive in the ‘real world’ very anonymously and kept a very low-profile in order to do so. Acquittal and freedom gave George the ability to begin to do the same [and] we have noticed a learning curve.”
Though it is not often mentioned in press reports, George’s family has endured what can only be described as a living nightmare. Robert says that their parents are “(n)ot well at all”, even without the stress of a trial dominating their lives.
“Both parents’ health has declined dramatically,” he explains. “Psychological challenges are often the most dangerous and the gateway to other conditions resulting from unmanaged stress. The acquittal was the verdict they wanted and needed but intense hiding began right afterward and the stress of hiding brought back memories of homelessness & fear of being killed by the very people who were committing violence against so many in the name of ‘Justice for Trayvon’.”
Former magistrate Robert Zimmerman, Sr. and his wife, Gladys, moved to the lake-dotted stretches of inland Florida from the hustle and bustle of northern Virginia. Like countless others, they were searching for a place to retire.
Do they expect to enjoy a relatively normal retirement lifestyle now that George has ben acquitted?
“No. Normal is a word that no longer applies,” Robert remarks. “People rely on their names as identifiers and when the most controversial thing about you becomes your name, ‘normal’ is something you are forced to forget.”
Boiled down to a single sentence, the Zimmerman ordeal seems to be living life on the run indefinitely — despite the fact that nobody is guilty of a crime.
Technically, this is not what comes to mind when the word “freedom” is mentioned. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
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