AFRICANGLOBE – A judge on Tuesday rebuffed George Zimmerman’s request for a five-month delay of his trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, saying it would begin as scheduled on June 10.
“We are four months away from a trial date,” Judge Debra S. Nelson of Circuit Court told defense lawyers during a contentious hearing. “I don’t see any of your issues to be insurmountable.”
The decision came on what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 18th birthday, which was commemorated outside the courthouse in Sanford, Fla., with community leaders and students singing “Happy Birthday.” The brief ceremony was just one in a series of events planned to honor Trayvon Martin this week, including a community peace walk and a fund-raising event with the Martin family and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Acknowledging Trayvon Martin’s birthday at the start of the hearing, Mark O’Mara, George Zimmerman’s lawyer, said that “the family has a special burden to bear today” and that “no matter what, a tragedy occurred.”
Mark O’Mara said he requested a postponement of the trial because he needed more time to prepare, and he accused prosecutors of moving slowly in making evidence and witnesses available.
“We are working hard,” O’Mara said. “We are running into an enormous amount of resistance.”
Bernie de la Rionda, the lead prosecutor in the case, disputed that characterization in court on Tuesday, saying the delays were due in part to O’Mara often canceling depositions at the last moment.
“That’s frustrating,” he said.
Trayvon Martin was killed nearly a year ago, on Feb. 26, while walking in a modest gated community in Sanford where George Zimmerman served as a volunteer neighborhood watchman. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and White, viewed Trayvon Martin, who was Black, as suspicious because of a string of recent break-ins.
George Zimmerman told the police that he fired his gun at Trayvon Martin only after Trayvon attacked him. Trayvon, a Miami teenager, was unarmed.
The case cast a light on Florida’s ambiguous self-defense law, Stand Your Ground, which allows people fearing great harm to retaliate with deadly force and is the core of George Zimmerman’s defense. The case provoked protests around the country over racial profiling and over the initial delay in arresting and charging George Zimmerman.
In court, the two sides sparred over the yet-to-be scheduled deposition of so-called Witness 8, a teenage girl who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before he was killed by George Zimmerman.
The girl spoke with Benjamin L. Crump, the lawyer for the Martin family, last March about her conversation with Trayvon Martin, saying he told her that he was being followed and that he was scared. A scuffle appeared to have broken out, she said, and the line went dead.
Few details are known about the girl, but she is expected to be an important witness in the case.
In an affidavit submitted on Tuesday, Mr. Crump said that he found Witness 8 through Trayvon Martin’s cellphone records and that he interviewed her over a speakerphone because her family did not want her interviewed in person. At that time, Mr. Crump said he did not know her last name or her address in Miami.
Trayvon Martin’s family and a reporter for ABC News were in the room with Mr. Crump during the conversation. Mr. Crump said he recorded the interview.