What's next: George Zimmerman is a 'marked man,' lawyer says

  • Zimmerman is free to leave Florida, but might face a life as a marked man
  • He has worn disguises and kept his address secret during the trial
  • Zimmerman has been wearing a bullet-proof vest

By the look on his face, it was hard to tell that George Zimmerman heard the verdict.

"Not guilty," the jury forewoman said.

Zimmerman didn't flinch. He turned to his lawyer, smiled briefly, then looked back to the bench.

"Your bond will be released," Judge Debra Nelson told him. "Your GPS monitor will be cut off, when you exit the courtroom over here. You have no further business with the court."

After 15 months, from arrest to acquittal, Zimmerman was a free man.

But, his lawyer pointed out, Zimmerman can't "wave his magic wand" and get his life back.

'Right to life was violated'

"The acquittal of George Zimmerman is a slap in the face to the American people but it is only the first round in the pursuit of justice," the Rev. Al Sharpton said after the verdict Saturday night.

The Internet was abuzz with howls of outrage. Crowds gathered, in mostly peaceful protests, in several cities.

"Justice for Trayvon! He could have been your son!" demonstrators chanted in Sanford, Florida, where the shooting took place February 26, 2012.

The NAACP is calling on the Justice Department to file civil rights charges and is asking the public to sign a petition.

"The most fundamental of civil rights - the right to life - was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin," the group said.

The Justice Department did not respond directly to the NAACP demand. It has a separate federal investigation going on.

An official told CNN on Saturday night that the department "continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial."

'They want revenge'

Zimmerman, who is married but has no children, is free to leave Florida and start over elsewhere.

He may choose to lead a life in the shadows, like Casey Anthony, the Florida woman acquitted of killing her 2-year-old daughter in 2008.

Zimmerman has kept his address under wraps for more than a year and worn a disguise whenever he left his four walls. He often strapped on body armor.

The threat of ethnically motivated vengeance is real, his lawyer said. Zimmerman is a marked man, attorney Mark O'Mara said.

"There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman refers to himself as Hispanic. His mother is Latina, and his father is white. Trayvon Martin was African-American.

"He has to be very cautious and protective of his safety because there is still a fringe element who have said, at least in tweets and everything else, that they want revenge -- that they will not listen to a verdict of not guilty."

'Still processing reality'

The feeling of freedom has not set in yet, his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., told CNN's Piers Morgan after the verdict.

"He is still processing the reality," he said.

Robert Zimmerman said his brother "was never the same" after the shooting.

"In his religious beliefs, death by any definition is a tragedy," he said. "So he has moral things that he's going to have to deal with, and emotional and psychological hurdles he's going to have to overcome."

Asked if George Zimmerman will keep the gun used in the killing, the brother said, "I don't see any reason why he shouldn't.

"I think he has more reason now than ever to think that people are trying to kill him because they express they're trying to kill him, all the time every day, on my Twitter feed, on the Internet."

Support for Zimmerman

To be sure, Zimmerman has his supporters.

They have sent letters and e-mails to his lawyers by the hundreds, offering moral support and saying they sympathized with a man so concerned about neighborhood break-ins that he bought a gun and dog, and donned the mantle of neighborhood watchman.

The letters often blame the media for his woes and offer encouragement for the road ahead.

After the verdict, O'Mara too assailed news outlets for their coverage.

"He was like a patient in an operating table where mad scientists were committing experiments on him and he had no anesthesia," he said.

Many supporters sent in money to a website he established to help with his mounting legal bills.

But one crisis public relations manager said Zimmerman must tread lightly when accepting further public money.

"He's got to be careful about who he associates with afterward, even if they are offering financial support," said Gene Grabowski.

But on Saturday night, in that fifth-floor courtroom, after the end of the proceedings, Zimmerman sat in the defendant's chair -- no longer an accused murderer.

As his legal team surrounded him and congratulated each other with handshakes and hugs, he seemed to soak in the relief and joy.

CNN's Michael Martinez contributed to this report


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