No 'Stand Your Ground' for Zimmerman... yet

NEED TO KNOW
  • George Zimmerman will not seek pre-trial immunity
  • He is charged with second-degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. He claims he shot the teenager in self-defense
No 'Stand Your Ground' for Zimmerman... yet

George Zimmerman said under oath during a hearing Tuesday that he will not pursue immunity under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law before his trial begins June 10.

Zimmerman's statements leave open the possibility that he could raise the issue of "Stand Your Ground" immunity during his trial.

The significance of this tactical move means that the prosecution will only see the defense presentation of its evidence at trial.

If the defense chose to have a pre-trial "Stand Your Ground" hearing it would amount to a miniature trial, and if unsuccessful the prosecution would get a glimpse into the defense's case.

Judge Debra Nelson asked, “Is it your decision to not file the pretrial immunity motion?”

“Yes, your honor,” said Zimmerman.

The issue of "Stand Your Ground" immunity is not dead. Zimmerman's attorneys could raise the issue of immunity after closing arguments in his trial, and ask Nelson to rule on whether Zimmerman should be granted immunity from prosecution before the case is given to the jury for deliberations.

The "Stand Your Ground" law allows the use of deadly force as long as the defendant can prove the following factors:

  • Are not engaged in an unlawful activity.
  • Are being attacked in a place you have a right to be.
  • Reasonably believe that your life and safety is in danger as a result of an overt act or perceived threat committed by someone else toward you.

During Tuesday's hearing, Zimmerman sat staring straight ahead and did show any emotion. It seemed as if he wasn't even paying attention to the proceeding going around him. When it came time for him to answer questions from the judge he seemed timid, and answered with quick answers in a faint voice.

HLN live-blogged Zimmerman's hearing Tuesday. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin. He has told police he shot the teenager in self-defense. Read below for minute-by-minute updates from the proceeding (Best read from the bottom up):

12:45 p.m. ET: Defense attorney O'Mara just finished a brief press conference outside the courthouse.

“This case has taken on a huge significance well beyond the facts of the case. Trayvon Martin was not profiled because he was black. George is not a racist. It was an event where two lives intersected and one of them got extraordinarily aggressive. The evidence supports that was Trayvon Martin, who had no injuries but for the fatal gunshot,” said O’Mara. “Criminal immunity is going to be granted to George by the jury and that is what we are looking towards. So in that context, talking about immunity when we know we’re going to have a jury trial is irrelevant. It truly is."

12:09 p.m. ET: Judge Nelson has recessed court, so the hearing is finished. The attorneys will meet with the judge about jury selection in a meeting that will be off the record.

12:06 p.m. ET: O'Mara is asking the Nelson if the attorneys can get together to discuss issues with jury selection. Nelson said she can meet with the attorneys about jury selection this afternoon.

12:03 p.m. ET: Judge Nelson said she did not find any discovery violations in this case, but she will hold a hearing on whether the defense is entitled to montary compenstation from the prosecution for time wasted on the Witness 8 hospital issue. She also said the next hearing in Zimmerman's case will be held on May 28.

11:58 a.m. ET: Rionda said he didn't tell O'Mara about the Witness 8's lie, because he forgot, and it was a mistake on his part.

11:55 a.m. ET: O'Mara said the Rionda's failure to tell the defense that there were no hospital records for Witness 8 for 4 or 5 months was unethical.

“It has cost us hours and hours and hours of work. Very specifically Mr. Rionda new on August 2nd, that there were no hospital records. He knew that, without question. And we asked him two and a half weeks later…  and an email three weeks after that and we had more conversations – no answer, when he knew no hospital records existed… he did not call me up and say, ‘Don’t waste your time, there are no hospital records…’ Let’s be a little bit sensitive to the fact that we’ve ignored your request for four months, five months, until you set a hearing. Now the night before, we’ll tell you. That is inappropriate, it’s improper and it’s unethical,” said O’Mara. “When do we get to the point where we actually start playing fair? When do we try this case on the merits, and not what’s hidden in the shadows?”

11:50 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson is walking through all the prosecution's alleged discovery violations and how they have been resolved.

11:48 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson is asking how O'Mara how Zimmerman's defense has been hindered by the prosecution's alleged discovery violation. O'Mara said if the judge doesn't tell the prosecution to play by the rules they will not be ready for trial. Nelson said she doesn't understand what damage has been done, because every problem has been cured.

“What they’re doing is they’re not giving us information until we have to come before you, each and every time we find a thread, pull on it until it unravels the state’s deceit in giving us information… we can’t get ready for trial. We will be unprepared for trial because of everything they have done to us and unless you tell them to stop doing it, and to play by the rules they’re supposed to play by…” said O’Mara.

11:44 a.m. ET: O'Mara has finished his redirect examination of West, and now Rionda is asking West questions. The judge stopped the questioning because it is not relevant to the issue of whether the prosecution committed a discovery violation.

11:40 a.m. ET: Rionda has finished has cross examination of West. O'Mara is now asking West questions. West said some of the new witnesses disclosed by the defense are people that were victims of burglaries in the neighborhood that Martin was shot.

11:36 a.m. ET: Rionda wants to know why it took the defense so long to disclose some of the witnesses they intended to call. West said it was not intentional, and discovery is on going process and fluid process.

11:32 a.m. ET: Rionda is asking West what he knows about reciprocal discovery required of the defense. He is asking West why it took the defense a year to file supplemental discovery if they required to file reciprocal discovery within 15 days. West said it is a ongoing investigation, and they have filed discovery as they learned of evidence.

11:26 a.m. ET: West agreed with Rionda that the witness 8 said she lied about the hospital, because she couldn't tell Martin's mother that she was unable to go to the hospital, because she didn't want to see Martin's body. Rionda asked West why he thinks the fact witness 8 lied about going to the hospital will help ZImmerman's case. West said he believes it goes to witness 8's crediblity.

Rionda: “Witness 8 was asked extensively about that, was she not, in the deposition?”

West: “Yes, I think so.”

Rionda: “Witness #8 stated, did she not, that this is a very emotional time for her, did she not?”

West: “You’re referring to…”

Rionda: “The hospital, the fact a friend of hers had died.”

West: “Yes.”

Rionda: “And that she didn’t want to have to go look at the body is I think the way she described it. Is that not true?”

West: “That’s my memory as well.”

Rionda: “And that she was very emotional in having to tell anyone, specifically the victim’s mother, in why she couldn’t go to the funeral or the wake because she just didn’t want to have to deal with looking at the body? At Travyon Martin’s body, do you recall that?”

West: “That’s what she said, yes."

11:23 a.m. ET: Rionda is asking West if the court ever told the defense to go to the FDLE to get whatever records they need. West said yes and they went to FDLE and got the records the defense needed.

11:20 a.m. ET: Rionda is asking West what case law or law requires the prosecution to disclose to the defense who is present at depositions and interviews. West said he believes both the prosecution and defense is required to disclose that information.

11:14 a.m. ET: West said the defense has the ABC recording. Rionda said the prosecution does not have it, and he asked West if he should file motions requested sanctions on the defense for not disclosing the ABC recording. West said he believes the ABC recording is available online for everyone.

Rionda: “You’re required under the law to provide reciprocal discovery to the state, are you not?”

West: “Yes, under 3.220.”

Rionda: “Was that ABC recording disclosed as reciprocal discovery?”

West: “Have we filed an exhibit identifying it? No, I don’t think so.”

Rionda: “Do you know how many hours Mr. Guy spent researching that issue in terms of getting that? Should we file a motion for sanctions against you all for that?”

West: “I don’t know how many hours he may have spent. It was readily available online and it was cited, I think, if not provided as part of a motion we filed.”

11:12 a.m. ET: ABC informed the defense that they only recorded five and half minutes of the interview.

11:10 a.m. ET: Rionda is asking West whether the defense has requested recordings ABC made of an interview between Crump and Witness 8. West said O'Mara has been in contact with ABC, and they said they only recorded part of the interview.

11:06 a.m. ET: West said he could understand more of the content on the better quality recording, but he believes the content was the same on both recordings.

11:05 a.m. ET: West said eventually the defense got another recording that was a better quality, and the content seemed to be same in both recordings.

11:03 a.m. ET: West said one recording of the interview between Crump and Witness was of extremely poor quality.

10:59 a.m. ET: Rionda wants to know what evidence West has that Martin family attorney Crump redacted a recording of an interview with Witness 8. West said he did not say he redacted something on that recording.

10:58 a.m. ET: West said witness 8's name was released to the defense at the beginning of discovery.

10:55 a.m. ET: West agreed with Rionda that there has been an effort in this case to not release witness information to public.

10:54 a.m. ET: Rionda said bloggers misidentified a woman as Witness 8, and Zimmerman's defense website issued a bulletin said people were wrong and they knew the true identity of the woman. West said he remembered the website issuing that statement, and it wasn't that long ago.

10:51 a.m. ET: West is now talking about how the defense learned about the identity of Witness 8.

10:48 a.m. ET: Rionda seems frustrated with West, and has raised his voice several times when questioning him.

10:46 a.m. ET: Rionda is asking West about a letter Witness 8 turned over to both the defense and prosecution at the same time. West said he asked Rionda when he found out about the letter, but he wouldn't answer the question.

10:43 a.m. ET: O'Mara has finished his questioning of his co-counsel West. Rionda is now cross-examining West now.

10:41 a.m. ET: West said Witness 8 told the prosecution she lied about going to hospital during a meeting last August.

10:38 a.m. ET: West is walking through a timeline that documents the defense's issues with receiving evidence from Rionda including Martin's hospital records and photos of Zimmerman's injuries from the night of the shooting.

10:35 a.m. ET: West is accusing Rionda of not responding to the defense's discovery requests. West said the defense has spent 50 to 100 hours dealing with issues related to the prosecution's discovery violations.

10:32 a.m. ET: West said the prosecution did not release the fact that witness 8 lied about going to the hospital until months after they had learned that she had not told the truth. He is now detailing how much the prosecutions discovery violations have cost the defense.

10:28 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking West when he first thought witness 8 was lying about going to the hospital after Martin was shot. West said he thought very early on he thought it just didn't fit.

10:26 a.m. ET: West said a report from the Federal Department of Law Enforcement or FDLE informed the defense that Rionda had met with witness 8 another time.

10:23 a.m. ET: West said that at some point the defense learned of other interviews Rionda had with witness 8.

10:21 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking West what information was left out of the Crump interview of witness 8. West said the defense was not told that Crump helped transport the witness to the interview, and some of Martin's family members were present.

10:18 a.m. ET: West said the defense got a recording of an interview of another witness conducted by Rionda that was also redacted or edited. He also said the defense had to request unredacted recordings.

10:16 a.m. ET: West said after filing motions the defense finally got an unredacted recording of the conversation.

10:14 a.m. ET: West said the first recording of Crump's interview the defense received from the prosecution seemed to be edited and redacted of any identifying information for witness 8.

10:11 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking West about a discovery issue with witness 8. West said there was a recording of Martin family attorney Ben Crump talking with witness 8, and the defense became aware of the recording through different reports. Witness 8 is Martin's ex-girlfriend who was on the phone with him around the time he was shot.

10:10 a.m. ET: West is testifying about his work experience, and his history with Zimmerman's case.

10:08 a.m. ET: Nelson is now trying to determine whether there was a discovery violation. Defense attorney West is taking the witness stand to testify about the prosecution's alleged discovery violation.

10:04 a.m. ET: O'Mara said prosecutors have attacked his reputation, and these proceedings need to be respectful to each other because the world is watching. People could lose respect from the system if they witness the attorneys bicker according to O'Mara.

10:01 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking Nelson to sanction the prosecution for discovery violations. He said the prosecution's actions were unethical.

9:58 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking for the settlement documents between the Martin family and the home owner's association for the neighborhood where Martin was shot. Judge Nelson said she would give the defense access to documents under court seal preventing it from being released to the public.

9:54 a.m. ET: Zimmerman is done answering questions from judge Nelson. The attorneys are at a sidebar now.

 

 

9:53 a.m. ET: Here is a transcript of Nelson's Q&A with Zimmerman:

udge:  “The state of Florida provides a procedure where by you may file a pretrial motion for immunity and at that motion hearing, the defense bears the burden of proof. Do you understand that?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And are you familiar with chapter 776.032 and that’s known as the Stand Your Ground statute of immunity. Are you familiar with that statute?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And without telling me any substance of any conversations that you’ve had with any of your lawyers, but have you had conversations with them about filing an immunity motion and having a pretrial hearing?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And are you aware that council previously stated that they were going to file a pretrial motion and request a separate immunity hearing?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And that the court had set the deadline for filing any of those motions in a previous court order and that was April 26, 2013. Are you aware of that?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And in addition to that the court, in anticipation, had set aside two weeks in April for an immunity hearing. Are you aware of that?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And then prior to that date, council announced to the court that he will not be filing a pretrial immunity motion. Are you aware of that?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And that was discussed with you?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And you’re also aware that no such motion has been filed, is that correct?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And that matter was discussed with you also?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “Do you consent with council’s decision to not file a pretrial immunity motion?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “And do you consent to council’s not requesting a pretrial immunity hearing?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “Is it your decision to not file the pretrial immunity motion?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

Judge: “Is it your decision to not have a pretrial immunity hearing?”

Zimmerman: “After consultation with my council, yes your honor.”

Judge: “Has anyone promised you anything to get you to make this decision?”

Zimmerman: “No, your honor.”

Judge: “Has anybody threatened you?”

Zimmerman: “No, your honor.”

Judge: “Is your decision freely and voluntarily and knowingly made?”

Zimmerman: “Yes, your honor.”

9:52 a.m. ET: Zimmerman said the defense will not file a request for a pre-trial immunity hearing, and it is his decision to not to pursue a pre-trial hearing.

9:50 a.m. ET: O'Mara is asking whether he can prepare an affidavit instead of Nelson asking Zimmerman question. Nelson denied O'Mara's request.

Zimmerman is taking the oath right now. Nelson is asking Zimmerman if he is aware of the "Stand Your Ground" law. Zimmerman said he knows about the law and how the defense said it did not want a pre-trial immunity hearing.

9:46 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson is back on the bench.

9:43 a.m. ET: George Zimmerman showed no emotion in court today.

9:40 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson has recessed court for five minutes.

9:39 a.m. ET:

9:36 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson has asked the attorneys to approach her bench for a sidebar so she can tell the attorneys what she is going to ask Zimmerman.

Zimmerman may have to tell the court whether he understands his rights under the "Stand Your Ground" law, and if he is waiving them.

9:34 a.m. ET:

“Without objection, I think it’s a good idea if Mr. Zimmerman would stand up and raise his right hand – I have a few questions I’d like to ask him, just regarding that issue,” said the judge.

9:32 a.m. ET: O'Mara is addressing the prosecution's request to have Zimmerman waive his "Stand Your Ground" rights on the record. He says he doesn't feel it's appropriate, because he has already said they would only pursue immunity under that law at the end of the presentation of evidence.

9:29 a.m. ET: Defense attorney Mark O'Mara has asked the judge to add a witness to their list of witnesses they will call at trial. Rionda said he doesn't have a problem with adding them as long as he can depose them and add witness to rebut the new testimony. Nelson will allow the additional witness with Rionda's requests.

9:26 a.m. ET: Nelson ruled that the issue over the 911 is over, because the prosecution hasn't released an cleaned up version to anyone. West tried to argue that the Martin family attorney Ben Crump may have a cleaned up version. Nelson shut West down and said the issue was over.

9:23 a.m. ET: Rionda said the 911 call has been sent to experts, but a cleaned up or enhanced version has not been released to anyone. West had said one of Martin's family members said they heard a cleaned up version of the 911 call.

9:20 a.m. ET: Judge Nelson has asked Rionda whether the 911 call with cries or screams on it has been enhanced or edited.

9:17 a.m. ET: West is discussing a recording of a 911 call made at the time of the shooting, that recorded a gunshot and Martin screaming for help.

“There’s about 40 seconds of recorded phone call before the shot is heard. During that time period, during that 40 seconds, there are a number of what have been characterized as screams or cries for help that are heard clearly in the background,” said West.

9:13 a.m. ET: Defense attorney Bernie de la Rionda said his office has already turned over all the information his investigators have from George and Shellie Zimmerman, and Trayvon Martin's phones.

9:10 a.m. ET: Zimmerman is sitting at the defense table and is staring straight ahead. He doesn't seem to be paying attention.

9:07 a.m. ET: The audio issue has been resolved. Defense attorney Don West is asking the judge to order prosecutors to turn over more evidence from George, Shellie Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin phones.

9:02 a.m. ET: The video feed from the courtroom is having technical issues with the audio. HLN can't broadcast the hearing until the issue is fixed.

9:00 a.m. ET: Judge Debra Nelson is on the stand, and Zimmerman is the courtroom. George Zimmerman's brother is in the gallery.

Nelson begins by saying recent filings show acrimony and she will not stand for it. Judge takes out rules governing conduct. Lights automatically begin to dim. Judge states "I guess we are getting mood lighting. "

8:55 a.m. ET:

There is a critical hearing about to start in George Zimmerman's case, and it could be one of the last pretrial hearings before his trial gets under way.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin June 10.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge for shooting Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. The teenager was returning from a convenience store and was unarmed. Zimmerman told police he shot the teen in self-defense.

At the hearing Tuesday, attorneys will argue several motions filed by the defense. The defense wants the prosecution to turn over phone records from several people including Zimmerman, his wife, and Martin.  

Zimmerman's attorneys also want access to the confidential settlement agreement between the Martin family and the homeowners association of the neighborhood where Martin was shot.

The defense also wants recordings of the 911 call made by Martin's father from the night of the shooting.

Zimmerman's attorneys are also asking Judge Debra Nelson to sanction the prosecution for violating rules of discovery for failing to turn over evidence in a timely manner.

The defense is also asking for permission to add five witnesses to their list of those that will be called to testify at trial. It is not clear who these additional witnesses are or how they help the defense's case.

Prosecutors have also filed a motion asking all of Martin's family members' personal information to remain confidential.

Read more: Defense denied access to Martin's girlfriend's records

The court could also hear arguments Tuesday about a motion the prosecutors filed this week. Prosecutors want Zimmerman to declare in open court whether he is going to ask for immunity under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. During a hearing held in March, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said his client was not going to pursue immunity under the "Stand Your Ground" law and will continue directly to his trial. For prosecutors, O'Mara's statement isn't enough, they want Zimmerman to say on the record whether he will pursue immunity.

Read more: Martin's family settle wrongful death suit

The motion prosecutors filed last week asks the judge to advise Zimmerman of his rights under the "Stand Your Ground" law, and to ask him directly on the record whether he is waiving his rights under the law. Zimmerman is expected to attend Tuesday's hearing.

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