George Zimmerman has waived his right to a speedy trial, arguing to a Florida court that he needs more time to prepare. The move means it could be October at the earliest — and likely much later — before the start of his second-degree murder trial.
Zimmerman’s intentions were outlined in two brief documents that Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, filed Tuesday in Seminole County, Fla., circuit court. The actions did not come as a surprise to legal experts, who said such moves are common even in less-complex and lower-profile felony cases.
Florida’s rules of criminal procedure require that suspects charged with a felony be brought to trial within 175 days of their arrest, unless those defendants ask that the right be waived. Zimmerman turned himself in to authorities on April 11, charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager who was walking in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, and whom Zimmerman considered to be suspicious.
Zimmerman, 28, was released from jail after posting $150,000 bond. He admits he shot Martin, 17, but claims he did so in self-defence. He has pleaded not guilty in court documents, making his appearance unnecessary at a Tuesday arraignment hearing.
Law enforcement officials’ initial reluctance to arrest Zimmerman sparked a national outcry, with many observers suspecting that Zimmerman, who is half-White and half Latino, was given a break because of his race, and the race of the young man he fatally shot.
Kenneth B. Nunn, a professor and criminal law expert at the University of Florida, said that prosecutors are likely pleased to have the extra time, given the expert witnesses to line up, police audiotapes to analyze and other details to sort out. Nunn said he wouldn’t be surprised if the trial started sometime in the spring of 2013.
The shooting has been a major story for American news media this spring, with interest generated by the Internet and social media as well.
It is not clear whether the public’s passion for the case will be sustained over many months, but another racially charged trial — that of the officers charged with beating Black Los Angeles motorist Rodney King — has been a somewhat inescapable reference point.
A jury’s April 1992 acquittal of the police officers who had been captured on tape beating King more than a year earlier sparked the deadly Los Angeles riots. The African American activist Al Sharpton marked the 20th anniversary of the riots last month with a call for a peaceful response to the Martin verdict.