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George Zimmerman declines 'stand your ground' hearing

March 05, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • George Zimmerman is shown shortly after his February 2012 altercation withTrayvon Martin, who was killed. Zimmerman's attorney waived a pretrial self-defense hearing that could have given Zimmerman a chance to avoid trial for murder.
George Zimmerman is shown shortly after his February 2012 altercation… (Florida State Attorney's…)

An attorney for George Zimmerman said in court Tuesday that he did not need a two-week immunity hearing in April to determine whether the defendant acted in self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground law."

Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, 17, during a neighborhood confrontation on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.

His defense has maintained that he shot Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense.

The two-week hearing had been scheduled to determine whether Zimmerman could be exempt from culpability by a legal principle in Florida known as "stand your ground," in which a person is given immunity for using deadly force if he or she had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury.

In an immunity hearing, a judge would decide whether Zimmerman was protected by the stand-your-ground law. Zimmerman did not appear at the hearing, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara has not given a detailed explanation for the move on a website set up for Zimmerman's legal defense, as has been his custom. But he told the judge he might like to integrate the stand-your-ground defense into Zimmerman's trial and told local reporters the move would give the defense more time to prepare.

"We decided to focus on the idea that George wants to have a jury of his peers decide his case," O'Mara told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "And it's going to be, I think, a more accepted result for everyone who has to accept the result -- that he gets an acquittal at trial, more so than an immunity hearing given by a judge."

Zimmerman's lawyers have long requested more time to prepare for the trial, which recently included a failed attempt to force the attorney for Martin's family to sit down for a deposition.

Nearly 70% of defendants using a stand-your-ground defense have gone free since the law passed in 2005, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation. The same analysis found that the odds of proving a successful self-defense claim go up to 73% if the victim is black.

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matt.pearce@latimes.com

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