George Zimmerman, accused of murder by state prosecutors in Trayvon Martin’s fatal shooting, will be seeking a hearing aimed at getting the charges dismissed by a judge before the case even goes to trial, his attorney announced on Thursday in a widely anticipated move. Legal analysts say that, based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law and available evidence, Zimmerman has a good chance at success. An attorney for Martin’s family, however, vehemently disagreed.
Under state law, a defendant asserting self-defense may request a hearing with a judge to get the charges thrown out before the case actually makes it to a jury trial. Still, the burden is much steeper. In a regular trial, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, Zimmerman and his defense team will have to convince the judge that the evidence in the case points to justified self-defense.
“Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense,” Zimmerman’s legal team, led by attorney Mark O’Mara, said in a statement released online on the official defense website. “Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the ‘Stand Your Ground’ hearing.”
The hearing will hinge on whether or not the presiding judge can be persuaded that Zimmerman had a “reasonable” fear of death or great bodily harm — the standard for invoking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. If the court rules in his favor, Zimmerman would be immune from criminal prosecution and civil actions related to the February 26 shooting in the town of Sanford. If not, absent a plea deal, the case will go to a jury trial.
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Photo of George Zimmerman (left), Mark O'Mara, and Sean Hannity