When George Zimmerman goes to trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a key component will no longer be at the forefront of his defense. Zimmerman appeared in a Florida courtroom Tuesday (April 30), where he waved his right to a “stand your ground” hearing.The 29-year-old originally used the Florida law –which allows a citizen fearing for their life, to shoot a potential attacker– to defend shooting Martin, but opted to fast track straight to the trial. “We’d much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof,” his attorney Mark O’Mara said.
Based on the hearing’s outcome, the former neighborhood watch volunteer could have potentially been absolved of second-degree murder charges, but that may not be the last we hear of the controversial defense.
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
The issue could still resurface at trial in June, his defense lawyer Mark O’Mara said during a roughly three-hour hearing, which concluded about noon.
After the hearing, O’Mara predicted the trial would last four to six weeks, with half of that time taken up by jury selection. He said the evidence Zimmerman acted in self-defense is “quite strong.”
During the hearing, Zimmerman was questioned under oath by Circuit Judge Debra Nelson. The state had asked the judge to demand an answer from Zimmerman about whether he was waiving his right to a “stand your ground” hearing.
That’s a proceeding that could absolve him of wrongdoing for the killing of Trayvon, which has become a civil rights cause célèbre.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, argued Zimmerman shouldn’t be asked to waive any rights. The defense “might,” he said, argue for immunity at trial, after all the evidence is presented.
Over O’Mara’s protestations, Nelson questioned Zimmerman, asking if he had made the decision to waive his right to a pre-trial immunity hearing.
“After consultation with my counsel, yes, your honor,” Zimmerman replied.
Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump called the new development “very telling,” in showing his alleged guilt. “We believe the defense’s decision to waive a pre-trial hearing and to merge the Stand Your Ground Hearing into the trial is to prevent putting George Zimmerman on the stand and to preclude the public and the potential jury pool from previewing the many inconsistences in George Zimmerman’s story,” he said.
Also during the hearing, Judge Nelson approved the defenses’s request to add five more names to their witness list. O’Mara and his team also asked that the prosecution be penalized for withholding information about Witness 8, who is believed to be Martin’s girlfriend. Meanwhile, Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda accused O’Mara of looking to conservative social sites to help build their case.
Zimmerman’s trial date is set for June 10.
Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP