Trayvon Came Back For George, Says Brother

The shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin one year ago became an international story, and raised difficult questions about race and justice. Host Michel Martin continues her conversation with Robert Zimmerman Jr., the brother of accused killer George Zimmerman, about how his family views the case and the public reaction.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, those across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration are looking increasingly likely. We'll speak with two education journalists about the possible impact on education from K through college. That's coming up.

But first, we want to continue our conversation with Robert Zimmerman Jr. He is the brother of George Zimmerman, the man charged in the shooting death of the unarmed Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin.

At the end of the day, whatever happens in the legal trial, your brother has to live with the fact that he killed a person who did not have a weapon, who was not a threat to him until he decided to pursue him. For whatever reason, he decided to pursue him. And how does he live with that, and how do you live with that?

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN JR.: Yeah. I know that George has been living with that since - I don't think there will be a distinction - is what I'm saying. He's been living with that since day one. He lived with a person who died. Now...

MARTIN: No. He killed that person. He didn't - the person didn't just die. He killed that person.

JR.: Sure. And the act of defending yourself by taking another's life is a very - it's a sad thing to do. I know some cops who do it, you know, leave the force. Some people have a big moral problem with something like that. I know that if George did what he did, he did it in order to save his life. And I know by the way he described it to me, from having, you know, his final throws of energy left to move his head from the sidewalk to the grass so that he wouldn't get slammed again and knocked out before this happened, that it was the last resort.

George was armed legally. People who are armed legally shouldn't be asking themselves questions about their race - their attacker's race or - should I turn my weapon over to my attacker and give them the benefit of the doubt because - hey, they were unarmed after all, so this attack doesn't really matter.

I think it was made clear to George that he had to do what he had to do. His screaming and screaming didn't dissuade Trayvon Martin. Supposedly, a person who came out to say I'm calling the cops didn't dissuade his attacker either. His...

MARTIN: But you're calling him - you're calling him his attacker. Your brother was following him. So he initiated...

JR.: My brother stopped - right - my brother stopped following him. And the question is, how did Trayvon Martin come upon my brother? So, now, if you want to play it forward to that point to the point in the tape where it says, he's gone. I can't see him anymore. He ran. Where does Trayvon Martin fit into all this in terms of him coming back to George for this confrontation? Because George didn't go to Trayvon Martin's house, knock on the door and ask him to come out, then drag him all the way back over to the ambush site.

Somehow, Trayvon Martin either laid in wait or came back for George and Trayvon Martin is - was George's attacker because the confrontation could have been avoided if in that moment of - we don't - I don't see him anymore, they have lost sight of one another and he's on the phone with the operator, Trayvon Martin never confronting George.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, a year from now, two years from now - I mean, obviously, some of this depends from your perspective on what happens in the legal case.

JR.: Sure.

MARTIN: But where do you want the country to be after all is said and done here? Do you think that anything has been learned over the course of this year?

JR.: I think it's telling how you asked a year from now. I think we're going to learn. Lesson number one is that, you know - and I don't know that the media will teach us this because they are the ones who are going to have to say, we were wrong. And we all know the media doesn't like to say that. They like to place their bets on their narrative and pitch it.

But I think the American people - I hope - will wisen(ph) up to throwing down a red flag right next to the race card. Every time the mainstream media or attorneys with financial interests representing people throw the race card on the table, we need to throw a red flag down and say - as Bill Cosby said - what gets accomplished by calling this person racist? That doesn't mean me and Bill Cosby see eye-to-eye, but that means that's a fair question by a really smart man saying, you know, what do we accomplish anymore in this world by just saying racist?

It's almost this deafening word that, like, you know, implies nothing else mattered. Nothing that happened before - no context for any fact matters. We've just said racist and now you need to go about proving that you're not a racist to our satisfaction. And I think that that has to be - you know, George voted for Obama. That has to be a thing of the past. He voted for Obama because...

MARTIN: How do you know he voted for Obama, if you don't mind my asking?

JR.: He was pitching Obama very, very heavily in our family and his registration card for voting, which, coincidentally, he filled out himself, says Hispanic. He's registered as a Democrat in his home district to vote at the time and he, you know, really rallied his family behind getting past this all white men's club of the American presidents that, you know, race was not a factor. The right man for the job came along, but that this would be a symbolic gesture for the world to see, that, you know, America is a different America today than it was 50 years ago. And I think maybe 50 years from now because of this case we'll be in a different place.

MARTIN: Robert Zimmerman Jr. is the brother of George Zimmerman. That is the man accused of killing the unarmed Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, a year ago today and he joined us from Orlando.

Robert Zimmerman Jr., thank you so much for speaking with us.

JR.: My pleasure, Michel. Thanks for having me.

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