George Zimmerman’s attorneys stunned court observers Tuesday when they waived their client’s right to a “Stand Your Ground” pretrial hearing.
That hearing, scheduled for April, could have led to a dismissal of the charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain in his Sanford, Fla., subdivision, shot and killed the teen, who was visiting a house in the area.
He claimed self-defense but faces second-degree murder charges. The move allows the defense more time to prepare for the trial this summer.
It also raises the stakes for the defendant.
Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law entitles a person to use deadly force if he believes his life is threatened, and absolves them of “an obligation to retreat.”
This applies even if retreat is possible.
Given that “Stand Your Ground” is seen by many observers as the linchpin defense, waiving a chance to have the case thrown out on that basis was shocking.
However, he likely calculated that a judge would not dismiss this high-profile and remarkably complex case before a jury even had a chance to hear it.
In recent weeks, Zimmerman’s defense has suffered multiple several legal setbacks involving his bail and the deposition of a key witness in the case.
Another unfavorable ruling could’ve been interpreted by as a sign of guilt, while a pretrial hearing would’ve also given prosecutors a preview of Zimmerman’s testimony.
Before the April hearing was waived, Zimmerman’s defense set out to attack the credibility of Witness 8, arguably the key witness in the upcoming trial.
Defense attorney Donald West asked the court for more information about the allegedly false account she gave attorneys regarding crucial events.
According to records obtained by ABC News, she was on the phone with Trayvon Martin as his fatal confrontation with George Zimmerman began.
She claims he told her that he was scared of a strange man following him.
The state admitted that Witness 8 lied when she stated that she did not attend Martin’s funeral because of a medical issue; no medical records supported that claim.
The defense wanted Judge Debra Nelson to question prosecutors about how they first learned that this claim was not true, but Nelson refused.
The defense also asked for law enforcement biographies of both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, in particular Martin’s social media history.
“It’s time and money to get some of the information here and we are running out of both,” said West, lamenting his client’s tenuous financial situation.