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Florida judge denies request to postpone George Zimmerman trial

February 05, 2013|By Michael Muskal

A Florida judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by the defense to delay the trial of George Zimmerman, who is facing second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, almost a year ago.

The ruling came on what would have been Martin’s 18th birthday, an anniversary that his supporters marked by singing “Happy Birthday” before the hearing began in Sanford, Fla. Commemorations of the fatal confrontation that has ignited passions about race and guns are scheduled throughout the week.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has always maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense when their paths crossed on Feb. 26 of last year. Supporters of Martin insist he was a victim of racial profiling when Zimmerman saw the teenager returning from a shopping trip to a convenience store.

PHOTOS: Moments from the Trayvon Martin case

The trial is scheduled for June 10. The defense has repeatedly argued that it needs more time to prepare an adequate case. The defense also maintains that the prosecution has not moved as expeditiously as it could in turning over material.

Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, took note of the birthday demonstration outside the Seminole County Courthouse. “The family has a special burden to bear today,” O’Mara said. “No matter what, a tragedy occurred.”

But O’Mara insisted that a delay was warranted. “We are working hard,” he said, adding, “we are running into an enormous amount of resistance.”

“The only additional argument is I need more time,” O'Mara said.

Bernie de la Rionda, the prosecutor, argued that the defense did not deserve a postponement because pre-trial delays were partly due to the defense canceling depositions.

“Sometimes we set aside days of depositions, and they're canceled ... that's frustrating,” De la Rionda said.

“We are four months away from a trial date,” Circuit Judge Debra Nelson told defense lawyers during the hearing. “I don’t see any of your issues to be insurmountable.”

With the trail date still set for June, both sides need to also prepare for an earlier self-defense hearing, tentatively scheduled for April. The hearing is part of the procedure in the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows people who believe they are threatened to use deadly force to defend themselves. The Zimmerman defense has argued that he acted within his rights under the law when he shot Martin, even though the teenager was unarmed.

Even a year later, the case still has power to move people. A rally, sponsored by Sanford police and the NAACP, is scheduled in the city’s historically black neighborhood of Goldsboro. Mayor Jeff Triplett and other city officials are scheduled to speak, along with local pastors and Martin family supporters.

On Saturday, a peace walk is scheduled in Miami as a remembrance.

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