© Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/MCTGeorge Zimmerman
New York - After his acquittal on murder charges for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman may go to law school to help people wrongly accused of crimes like himself, close friends told Reuters on Sunday.
The 29-year old was found not guilty late Saturday for shooting the unarmed black teenager in a case that sparked a national debate on race and gun laws. One of his first calls was to defense witness John Donnelly and his wife Leanne Benjamin.
They got to know Zimmerman in 2004 when he and a black friend opened up an insurance office in a Florida building where Benjamin worked. They grew close and the couple spent time with him during the trial.
Over dinner with Zimmerman recently, Benjamin said he told them he would like to go to law school.
"I'd like to help other people like me," she quoted him as telling them.
Zimmerman, an insurance investigator, attended community college and was a credit shy of an associate's degree in criminal justice but was kicked out of school because he posed a danger to the campus, according to family sources.
"Everybody said he was a cop-wannabe but he's interested in law," Benjamin said. "He sees it as a potential path forward to help other people like himself."
Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara agreed.
"He wanted to be a cop for awhile, but he's talked about going to law school," O'Mara told Reuters on Sunday.
"He has a real interest in the law and ... prosecuting appropriately - not like what he got - is something he's very interested in. I will not be surprised if he ends up in criminal law," O'Mara said. "His dad was a judge, and he wants to be a prosecutor or a lawyer."
Experience shows that re-building life after a major trial may prove difficult, even for those acquitted of headline-making crimes.
Casey Anthony, the young Orlando mother acquitted in 2011 of killing her 3-year-old daughter Caylee, remains hidden and unemployed while her lawyers fight civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages from her.
Former NFL star O.J. Simpson was acquitted in 1995 of killing his wife and an acquaintance, but his life fell apart. He lost a $33 million wrongful death civil suit in 1997, moved to Florida where he was arrested and eventually sent to prison in 2008 for up to 33 years for robbery and kidnapping.