George Zimmerman, the former neighbourhood watch volunteer who was acquitted of killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a criminal case that drew worldwide attention, has filed a $100m lawsuit against Martin’s parents and lawyers accusing them of using a fake witness.
Mr Zimmerman believes Martin’s parents, state prosecutors, and two women provided false statements to investigators and during the trial in order to frame him, and as a result, destroyed his reputation.
The 36-page lawsuit alleges that civil rights attorney Ben Crump did not use Martin’s “real” girlfriend, Brittany Diamond Eugene, during the trial and instead coached her half-sister Rachel Jeantel to deliver a fake testimony.
According to the lawsuit, prosecutors swapped the sisters because Eugene was reluctant to stand in the witness box, reported CNN.
It also alleges that Martin’s parents, prosecutors and state authorities “either have known about or should have known about the witness fraud, obstructed justice, of lied repeatedly under oath in order to cover up their knowledge of the witness fraud”.
Ms Jeantal, a key prosecution witness in the trial, testified that she received a phone from Martin before the attack telling her someone was following him.
Larry Klayman, founder of conservative legal activist group Judicial Watch and Zimmerman’s lawyer, said his client “often receives death threats” and now suffers from “depression and PTSD” as well as living in fear for his life.
Mr Crump and Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulon, have denied the allegations, calling it an “unfounded and reckless lawsuit”.
Mr Crump said in a statement: “I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is – another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others.
“This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimising individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions.
“He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims,” he said.
Mr Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, 17, in 2012 while the teenager was on his way to a convenience store to buy snacks.
The incident sparked the nationwide movement #BlackLivesMatter that put a spotlight on racial profiling and gun violence.
In the trial following the killing, Mr Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury, who accepted his argument that he had shot Martin in self-defence.
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