BREAKING NEWS: Zimmerman's attorney is seeking a "Stand Your Ground" hearing that could result in the dismissal of all charges against him. If the judge sides with Zimmerman, all charges are dropped. Otherwise, it goes to trial.
Lawyers for a Florida man charged in the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin said Thursday they would seek a hearing under the “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law that could result in the dismissal of criminal charges against him.
George Zimmerman’s lawyers said they saw “clear support for a strong claim of self-defense” after prosecutors had released much of their evidence in the case.
Zimmerman, 28, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting death of Martin in Sanford, central Florida. He claims he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self defense while acting as a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law allows people to use deadly force when they fear great bodily harm or death. Supporters of the law, which was enacted in 2005, argue it is intended to serve as a deterrent to violent crime but critics charge it encourages vigilante justice.
In a hearing under “Stand Your Ground,” a judge, not a jury, determines whether evidence meets criteria laid out in the law, said David Weinstein, a former Florida state and federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami.
If the judge rules in Zimmerman’s favor he would be granted immunity from prosecution in Martin’s death.
“If Zimmerman wins the hearing, it’s case over,” said Weinstein.
On the other hand, if the case goes forward to a full blown trial, the Stand Your Ground hearing would give the prosecution a good look at the defense strategy, Weinstein said.
"This is your shot. You lay it all out," he said.
Lawyers for Zimmerman said it would take several months to prepare for the hearing, which will focus on whether Zimmerman “reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent bodily harm to himself.”
Zimmerman shot and killed Martin during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, where Martin was visiting his father. Martin was walking back from a store when Zimmerman called a 911 dispatcher and said the teen looked suspicious.
Zimmerman said he shot Martin after Martin attacked him and repeatedly slammed his head to the ground. Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing the self-defense law.
Ben Crump, a lawyer for Martin’s family, said he expects the case will eventually go to trial.
"A grown man cannot profile and pursue an unarmed child, shoot him in the heart and then claim ‘Stand Your Ground,’" he said in statement. "We believe that the killer’s motion will be denied."
On Thursday, prosecutors released new evidence in the case, including Zimmerman’s college records. But they later recalled some of the documents after realizing they included an indistinct photo of Martin’s dead body, which is protected under Florida’s privacy laws.
Zimmerman is free on a $1 million bond and living in an undisclosed safe house near Sanford.
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