Zimmerman says no to ‘stand your ground’; case going straight to trial

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

George Zimmerman has waived his right to a pretrial hearing over whether he should be acquitted of murder charges under Florida's "stand your ground" law.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who's charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, said Tuesday in court that he did not want the preliminary hearing, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The surprising move by Zimmerman's legal team means the controversial case will go straight to trial in early June.

Zimmerman had the right under Florida's 7-year-old "stand your ground" law to argue to the judge in a special hearing without a jury that he's immune from both civil and criminal prosecution. The law, versions of which are on the books in 20 states, says people who have a reasonable belief their lives are in danger in a public place can harm an attacker without first attempting to retreat.

The 29-year-old says he acted in self defense when Martin attacked him on Feb. 26, 2012. Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled Martin, pursuing him around the neighborhood, and then confronting and killing him with his gun.

Jose Baez, an Orlando area defense attorney who worked on the Casey Anthony trial, said he thinks the decision to pass up the immunity hearing means Zimmerman's attorneys are going for an "all or nothing" defense and don't want to show their hand too early.

"The defense doesn't want to give the prosecution a preview of its defense should they lose on the 'stand your ground' hearing when it comes trial time," theorized Baez. "Obviously, a prosecutor would be much better prepared after he's had his shot to cross examine Mr. Zimmerman. He can only get better at it the more he does it."

But the choice to forgo the hearing means that even if Zimmerman is acquitted of charges in trial, he can still face civil prosecution. Martin's parents have already won a civil settlement in excess of $1 million from Zimmerman's homeowners' association.

Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said he may still argue that his client deserves immunity under the law in the full trial. The lawyers argue that Zimmerman was acting in self defense and could not be convicted on murder charges even without the "stand your ground" law.

Zimmerman has lived in hiding since he was released on bail.