Zimmerman verdict divides city of Sanford, Fla.

(CBS News) SANFORD, Fla. -- Jonathan McKnight has a successful real estate business in Florida. His son, Jonathan Jr., followed the George Zimmerman trial closely.

Jonathan McKnight
Jonathan McKnight
CBS News

"I'm hurt," the elder McKnight says. "And what I mean by hurt is that I'm disappointed. I felt like we were set back, because how can I tell people to trust the justice system when there is no justice?"

"He told me what the verdict was," McKnight says of his son. "He was panicking. He said, 'Dad, he's free.'"

"It's just really hard to trust the justice system right now," Jonathan Jr. says.

But Sanford restaurant owner Michael O'Brien says justice was served and credits Zimmerman's legal team.

Jonathan McKnight Jr.
Jonathan McKnight Jr.
CBS News

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"It didn't come out the way a lot of people wanted it to, but it's absolutely how it's supposed to work," he says.

For O'Brien, this was never about race.

"I think George Zimmerman felt like he was protecting his turf," he says. "I think Trayvon -- he was from Miami, which is a much more urban area, if you will. I think he had much more of a 'Hey, don't bother me' attitude. I think that on that particular night, I think those two things collided in a very bad way."

Michael O'Brien
Michael O'Brien
CBS News

"I don't think [Zimmerman] engaged him because he was a black kid," O'Brien continues. "I think he thought he was doing the right thing. I just think he overstepped it."

But McKnight says his son has learned that his safety may be in his own hands.

Asked why he feels he must have that conversation with his son, even though civil rights laws are in place, McKnight says, "Because the laws are only words if they're not enforced."

The two men agree on one point: that despite everything, a little civility on the night more than a year ago that Zimmerman and Martin met would have gone a long way to diffusing a deadly situation.


  • Michelle Miller

    Michelle Miller is an award-winning CBS News correspondent based in New York, reporting for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Her work regularly appears on the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley", "CBS This Morning" and "CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood". She joined CBS News in 2004.

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