George Zimmerman declines 'Stand Your Ground' hearing in Trayvon Martin case

4:32 PM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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George Zimmerman, right, arrives with his lead counsel, Mark O'Mara, for a hearing in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Florida, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013.

Sanford, FL -- There have been some major developments in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

After months of speculation, it appears the defense is not planning to use the Stand Your Ground defense, or spring it on jurors during the course of a trial.

That, and several other pre-trial issues are being discussed on Tuesday.

Zimmerman, wearing a dark suit and yellow tie, had clearly put on some weight since his last public appearance. 

His attorneys made motions about enhanced 911 recordings, witness lists, and access to a sealed civil settlement between the Martin family and the HOA which Zimmerman was working for at the time of the shooting.

These are the kinds of issues that need to be clarified with just six weeks to go before Zimmerman's criminal trial.

Zimmerman is accused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year as the two struggled over a gun.

There had been long speculation and debate over whether Zimmerman would try to use the Stand Your Ground defense during his trial. But the deadline for a hearing on that line of defense came and went on April 26.

There was speculation Zimmerman's defense team would try to introduce the defense during trial. Judge Debra Nelson had set aside two weeks to decide the issue before the case would go before a jury.

Prosecutors were also concerned that Zimmerman would try to argue grounds for appeal if he were to be convicted, had his defense team not at least attempted to argue the Stand Your Ground issue.

So on Tuesday morning, Judge Nelson asked Zimmerman directly about waiving his right to that hearing.

"And you're also aware that no such motion has been filed, is that correct?" she aksed.

"Yes," replied Zimmerman.

"And that matter was discussed with you also. Do you consent with counsel's decision to not file a pre-trial immunity motion?"

"Yes," he said again.

"And do you consent to counsel's not requesting a pretrial immunity hearing?"

"Yes your honor," said Zimmerman.

"Is it your decision not file a pre-trial immunity motion?"

Again, Zimmerman's answer was "Yes, your honor."

Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara said it's possible they could still try to introduce the issue during trial, but that the strategy is to approach the jury with a more-typical self-defense case.

In other important developments, Zimmerman's defense team will be allowed to add five witnesses to their witness list even at this late hour, but the judge also said prosecutors must be allowed time to depose those witnesses and add rebuttal witnesses if needed.

The judge also decided there is no mysterious enhanced 911 audio tape (of which there's been great conjecture) with Trayvon's voice on it.

Judge Nelson also decided to unseal a redacted version of the civil settlement between the Martin family and the Homeowner's Association for which Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch captain. But whether any information gleaned from that will be admissible would be decided at trial, she said.

A Martin family representative called insinuations that Trayvon's parents "profited' from the settlement "offensive" and that any parent would prefer to have their child over a financial award.

Lawyers for the fmaily say they're glad Nelson appears to moving the case forward toward a June 10th trial date, and called the hearing today a victory for those who felt the case should go to trial.

There were also a handful of motions made by Zimmerman's defense team, accusing prosecutors of misconduct in the case. They accuse them of hiding information during the discovery process or purposely dragging their feet.

The key issue of the day, however, was Zimmerman, in his own voice, stating that he understands what the Stand Your Ground defense is, and that he agreed with his counsel's decision not to use it as part of his defense preemptively.

Court-watchers say Zimmerman's defense team was willing to let the opportunity pass, because it might have meant revealing too much of their defense strategy in court ahead of a jury trial if the pre-trial motion had been denied.

O'Mara told reporters he estimates it will take to to three weeks to seat a jury in the case, and another two to three weeks more for trial.


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