Once George Zimmerman’s vocal defender, Frank Taaffe said Wednesday that he wanted to “make amends” with the family of Trayvon Martin by testifying for a federal grand jury convened in downtown Orlando.
The grand jury is believed to be hearing testimony in the civil rights probe into 17-year-old Trayvon’s shooting in Sanford. Zimmerman said he shot the teen in self-defense. He was found not guilty of second-degree murder at trial last year.
Taaffe, a former Zimmerman neighbor, was subpoenaed by a U.S. Department of Justice attorney to testify Wednesday.
Before entering the courthouse, Taaffe spoke to reporters, offering a complete about-face from his original stance on the case. Asked why his views had changed, Taaffe’s reply was blunt: “Death.”
Taaffe explained both of his sons died recently, leading him to reflect on the loss felt by Trayvon’s parents.
“This is a young man who didn’t deserve to die,” Taaffe said.
Zimmerman was driving through his neighborhood when he saw Trayvon walking through the rain Feb. 26, 2012, and called police to report the teen as suspicious.
Zimmerman left his vehicle. During a confrontation that left Zimmerman bloodied, he fatally shot the teen.
Trayvon’s killing became a cause célèbre after Zimmerman initially wasn’t arrested, sparking protests and a national debate about self-defense laws. Many believed that Trayvon was racially profiled by Zimmerman.
Taaffe said he now counts among them.
“In my heart of hearts, I do believe that,” he said.
Reached Wednesday, Zimmerman would not comment on Taaffe’s remarks.