The neighborhood vigilante charged with murdering unarmed Black teen Traqyvon Martin in Florida will seek a hearing to dismiss the charges against him based on the state’s “stand your ground” law.
George Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said on his website that the evidence shows that Zimmerman, 28, shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.
O’Mara likened the hearing to a “mini-trial” with testimony by experts and other witnesses.
Under the stand-your-ground law, a defendant who claims self-defense is entitled to a hearing to determine whether he was in fear for his life. If he was, the law says he had the right to use lethal force and the charges are dropped.
The decision will be made by Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester.
“This is a significant issue,” says Michelle Jacobs, a defense attorney and law professor at the University of Florida. The hearing, she says, will decide whether the case goes forward to trial.
Zimmerman Stalked and attacked Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old child on Feb. 26 inside a gated complex of townhouses in Sanford. When it was over, Trayvon had been shot dead.
Zimmerman says he was in fear for his life when Trayvon slammed his head into the concrete. The prosecution says Zimmerman followed Trayvon and confronted him for no reason other than that he was a Black teen in a hoodie.
Florida is one of at least 21 states with some version of the law that says a person does not have to retreat in the face of a threat and can use deadly force if they fear death or serious harm.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon’s family, issued a statement saying, “A grown man cannot profile and pursue an unarmed child, shoot him in the heart and then claim stand-your-ground. … There is only one version of this story that represents that Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon Martin, and that’s Zimmerman’s self-serving version.”
Elizabeth Megale, a Savannah Law School professor who has studied Florida’s stand-your-ground law, says it doesn’t matter whether Zimmerman was the aggressor or when his fear was triggered.
“Most people don’t understand, she says, that the law is broadly written. Zimmerman’s broken nose and lacerations on his skull are evidence that he would have been in fear, she says.
No hearing has been scheduled.
The office of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey released more documents in the case Thursday, including a state police report that showed Trayvon’s blood was on a bag of Skittles candy in his pocket.
The office also inadvertently released Zimmerman’s school records, which are private under federal law. The records show Zimmerman was a below-average student at Seminole State College of Florida who was on academic probation after failing a science class.