THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Aug. 10, 2012
David Royse, The News Service of Florida
Lawyers for George Zimmerman confirmed Thursday that he will assert a "stand your ground" defense, although a judge would determine in a hearing whether he ultimately can claim to have acted in self defense under the Stand Your Ground law.
That means there could essentially be a "mini-trial" ahead of any possible actual second degree murder trial for Zimmerman's shooting earlier this year of Trayvon Martin, and it could lead to charges being dropped.
The Sanford shooting case, in which Zimmerman has claimed self defense all along, has been watched nationally, in part because of the racial overtones involved, but also because it put the state's relatively new self defense statute under a microscope, even though the defense has been used numerous times.
"Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense," Zimmerman's defense team said on a website set up for it to communicate with the public. "Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing."
Many of the arguments and much of the evidence that would be presented at trial could first be aired at such a hearing, in which the judge would decide whether the case fits the "Stand Your Ground" statute, which says that people who feel legitimately threatened have the right to meet force with force. The burden would be on the defense to prove that the case fits the circumstances laid out in that law. If they do prove that, charges against Zimmerman would be dropped.
Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said on the website that it will take time to prepare for such a hearing and urged "everyone to be patient during this process and to reserve judgment until the evidence is presented in the 'Stand Your Ground' hearing."
O'Mara's posting on the website is the first time the defense team has acknowledged that it will use the Stand Your Ground defense.
Ben Crump, the Tallahassee-based attorney for the Martin family, said in a statement that he believed the "stand your ground" claim would be rejected and the matter would be decided in a jury trial.
Zimmerman was charged by a special state prosecutor, Angela Corey, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to take on the case after an uproar from the public when charges hadn't been filed in the shooting. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin at near point blank range in February after following him in a gated community. Zimmerman said Martin was suspicious – there had been break-ins in the neighborhood, and subsequently said he was attacked by Martin.
(CBS/AP) SANFORD, Fla. - August 9, 2012 - Noon
Attorneys for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged in the fatal February shooting of Trayvon Martin, say they'll seek a "stand your ground" hearing that could lead to criminal charges being dismissed.
A statement posted Thursday on the website for Zimmerman's legal team says evidence released by prosecutors shows "clear support for a strong claim of self-defense."
Zimmerman says he shot 17-year-old Martin in self-defense under Florida's so-called "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force, instead of retreating, if they believe their lives are in danger.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. If a judge rules the evidence fits the conditions of "stand your ground," the criminal charges would be dismissed and Zimmerman would be immune from civil action in the shooting.
Zimmerman is now free on $1 million bond.