Sanford feels impact of George Zimmerman trial

George Zimmerman


SANFORD, Fla. – People living and working in Sanford continue to feel the impact of the George Zimmerman trial.

Trayvon Martin's shooting death and the ensuing national exposure sent shockwaves through the normally tranquil Central Florida community.

SPECIAL SECTION: George Zimmerman trial

"I do a lot in the city of Sanford and I thought, 'Oh, no, this really didn't need to happen in Sanford,'" said juror E73.

"The tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was an encounter of two individuals in a city of over 54,000," said Norton Bonaparte, Jr., the Sanford city manager.

Bonaparte said residents worried about Sanford's image projected by coverage of the shooting.

"The perception that was given to the media was that Sanford was a dangerous place," he said. "We had residents contacting us that they had friends and relatives calling them and asking them when are they going to leave, wasn't it dangerous here."

"We really didn't want anybody to be afraid to go to Sanford," added juror E73.

Juror E73 also talked about the city's efforts to revitalize downtown and the impact the debate about the shooting had on small businesses in the area. Susan Constantine, a jury consultant, lives nearby.

"It was like a desert town because you had everybody -- mounds of people rallying out there. People were frightened, doors were locked up," she said. "There are a lot of struggling businesses in Sanford. We're just really trying to make ends meet. A lot of restaurants, little shops, a lot of art shops... all of them depend on them coming into the area and being comfortable being in Sanford."

"During the rallies when there were thousands of people here, a lot of people started staying away from the downtown businesses, and yes, the downtown had seen a suffer," added Bonaparte.

Bonaparte believes things have cooled since then.

"When people come to the rallies, they were very angry because he (Zimmerman) had not been arrested. He has now been arrested and is on trial and so it is a whole different focus," he said.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, saying the shooting was in self-defense.

Meantime, the judge overseeing the case said Thursday that the jury would be sequestered.