ORLANDO — Mark O'Mara's name is forever linked to George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who in 2012 sparked protests nationwide after killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen.
The Orlando attorney says he has no regrets about representing Zimmerman, who was acquitted in July in a trial that drew worldwide attention. O'Mara, 57, says that the case that consumed most of his time also opened doors for him.
He jumped from doing local TV analysis on Casey Anthony to providing legal analysis for CNN, giving speeches and consulting. He has moved on to other cases and other issues, notably a justice-outreach program he started to help youngsters avoid crime. He talked recently at his office.
Question: What has CNN done for your practice?
Answer: The Zimmerman case and the aftermath, I hate to say it like that, have helped my practice without question. I can't deny that. The idea of having a high-profile case helps because people know you. That notoriety or publicity is both a blessing and a curse, obviously.
Q: Is the curse that some people think you're a miracle worker?
A: Yes, people have heightened expectations. I'm not a miracle worker. I didn't turn into a miracle worker because I won a criminal case that, quite honestly, the facts show that I should have won. The fact of the case, I don't think it ever should have gone to trial. So the idea of winning it isn't such a miracle.
Q: Are some people afraid to call you?
A: There's some of that because it looks like I'm too distant. That is the aftermath I was talking about. No regrets. I'm very, very humbled by the idea that someone like CNN, a group I've always respected (for) the way they present the news, that they would want me to help out, particularly realizing there's still some negativity assigned to the Zimmerman case and therefore certainly to George and therefore to me.
Q: What do you mean by no regrets?
A: No regrets about taking the case, no regrets about it becoming the enormity that I didn't realize it was going to become and staying with it. I was working 40 hours a week on that case minimum and another 30 to 40 hours on my regular practice. I took four days off in all of 2013. That's what I have no regrets about because it became an event unto itself. I liken it to a combination of 'A Few Good Men' and 'Animal House.' We had 10, 12 people busting their butts here. We were here 24-7. ... I couldn't have made it without my wife and her understanding.
Q: When was the last time you talked to George Zimmerman?
A: Several weeks ago. We spent a lot of time together. Hopefully he's just chilling back and taking it easy.
Q: Will you move forward with a motion for sanctions against the state?
A: It's pending. It's actually more George's decision than mine. He'll let me know if he wants that done. I think he probably spent enough time in a criminal courtroom in Seminole County.
Q: Are your writing a book?
A: I feel we have a lot of healing to do because of the Zimmerman case. A book 'I won and here's how' is an insensitive project. There is another project I'm working on, which is taking a look at what the Zimmerman case brought to the forefront: race, racial issues in the criminal justice system, self-defense, gun rights, the media.
Q: Has your view of the media changed since you've been part of CNN?
A: My view of the media changed more the first month or two I was involved in the Zimmerman case. The first couple of months when I had a trial by fire, I got insight into the methods of media.
Q: What is your main complaint about the media?
A: The timelines are so demanding on the media that they have to rush to be first. If you're not first with the story, you are last. I will say one sentence to you and you will run outside to your satellite truck and get it out there before anybody else, but you didn't know there was a comma in that sentence and I'm not done. I watched things go out through the media, and I knew they were not doing their fact-checking.
Q: What about the Florida Bar ethics inquiry related to how you handled the Zimmerman case?
A: It's being dismissed, and it's my understanding that's in the works. I'm not worried about it because I sort of asked them to figure out what's going on.
Q: What did that case bring you?
A: It brought me an extraordinary amount of national attention to me personally as a criminal defense attorney. I have no regrets for that reason. I can't make believe that I'm not happy that I got a case that was covered throughout the world.
Q: Will you ever run for political office?
A: No. I'd have to stop doing this. I love what I do. There's no way I would give up practicing law and enjoying what I love to do most. This also has opened other opportunities. I'm doing a lot of speaking engagements and training other lawyers, training management in corporations how to look at a situation that is potentially toxic. We're starting a trial-consulting practice. My team will help with high-profile cases.