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Trayvon Martin case: George Zimmerman quietly pleaded not guilty

April 24, 2012|By Richard Fausset
  • George Zimmerman, shown leaving jail led by a bail bondsman, used a court filing to plead not guilty to second-degree murder.
George Zimmerman, shown leaving jail led by a bail bondsman, used a court… (Brian Blanco / Associated…)

George Zimmerman has used a court filing to quietly plead not guilty to second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin slaying case, according to documents released by a Florida circuit court.

The plea, which was filed on April 12, was part of a batch of court records made public this week after the case was unsealed by Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. A number of media organizations had petitioned the court to make the case filings public.

"The Defendant, by and through his undersigned attorney, enters a written plea of NOT GUILTY to the charges now pending against him in the above-styled cause or causes," stated the two-page document, which was filed by Zimmerman's attorney,Mark O'Mara.

In the filing, Zimmerman, 28, also waives his right to answer to the murder charge in person. It is not clear what that means for Zimmerman's arraignment date, scheduled for May.

Zimmerman's sole court appearance so far was at a bond hearing on April 20, at which he apologized to the parents of Martin, the unarmed teenager he fatally shot in February. Zimmerman has received death threats; so, apparently, have his family members, who testified at the hearing via telephone to ensure their safety.

Lester set Zimmerman's bond at $150,000; Zimmerman was released from jail after midnight Monday and slipped back into hiding.

The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure allow Zimmerman to enter a not-guilty plea on paper. Kenneth B. Nunn, a law professor at the University of Florida, said the paper plea was probably a minor tactical maneuver on O'Mara's part to reduce the hassles involved with having Zimmerman appear in public.

"Why have him come out of hiding and have another chance for his location to be discovered -- and then have him go in front of the court for something that's meaningless anyway?" Nunn said.

The remaining documents made public Tuesday revealed few new pertinent details about the case, although a few underscore the severity of what Zimmerman, on a website, has called "a life altering event" that has upended his existence, forcing him to go into hiding and to leave his work.

On a pre-trial intake interview form also released Tuesday, a Seminole County sheriff's official filling out the space next to "Employment Info" for Zimmerman wrote "unemployed."

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richard.fausset@latimes.com

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