There Will Be A "Stand Your Ground" Hearing in the George Zimmerman Case

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Since the beginning, there has been a rush to judgment in the case against George Zimmerman. Since the first day of his involvement, Mr. O’Mara has emphasized that people should be patient and wait for the evidence to be released before forming opinions about the case.

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. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

In the case against George Zimmerman, a “Stand Your Ground” hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. 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.

There are significant differences between a “Stand Your Ground” hearing and a trial. In a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, there is no jury; the decision is made by the judge alone. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, the burden is on the defense to prove that the evidence fits the conditions of the “Stand Your Ground” law. If the Court rules in favor of the defendant in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, not only are criminal charges dismissed, the defendant is also immune from civil actions related to the shooting. The primary focus of a “Stand Your Ground” hearing is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent great bodily harm to himself at the hands of Trayvon Martin.

Preparing for the “Stand Your Ground” hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for a trial. It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts, and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing. We anticipate this will still take several months. Mr. O’Mara, again, urges everyone to be patient during this process and to reserve judgment until the evidence is presented in the “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

Zimmerman Defense Files Motion to Continue

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The Court granted the defense team’s Motion to Continue, which postpones the Docket Sounding scheduled on Wednesday August 8 until October 3. The purpose of a Docket Sounding is to provide the Court with an update regarding the progress of the case, and to establish a timeline for official legal proceedings, whether that be motion hearings, disposition, or trial.

We filed our Motion to Continue because there is still a great deal of information to be gathered regarding this case, and we are in the early stages of preparing our reciprocal discovery -- a process that can take a few months -- and it is simply too early in the process to set firm trial dates.

This motion is consistent with a rough timeline for defending Mr. Zimmerman that we described in a release dated June 1, a timeline that includes: drafting discovery requests and working through potential resistance; deposing more than 50 potential witnesses and experts; and filing appropriate motions (including a potential “stand your ground” motion).

Moreover, since our June 1 statement, a number of issues, including the revocation of Mr. Zimmerman’s bond and our Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge, have added to the complexity of the defense process.

Moving forward, we expect there will be additional motions to continue, and it is anticipated, though not certain, that this case will not be ready for trial until early next year.

Zimmerman Defense Responds to Witness #9 Statements

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Today the State released Witness #9's Statements along with Mr. Zimmerman's phone calls from jail in response to the Court's July 13 order.

In her statements, Witness #9, who is George Zimmerman's cousin, alleges that Mr. Zimmerman inappropriately touched her beginning when she was 6 and Mr. Zimmerman was almost 8, and that it continued on occasion until she was 16 and Mr. Zimmerman was 17.

The defense moved to block the public release of Witness #9's statement in a motion filed on June 18, 2012 contending "The content of this statement is not relevant to the issues of this case, and it would not be admissible in the State's case in chief." The motion further contends that this irrelevant statement should be withheld from public dissemination because of the substantial risk that public disclosure will lead to widespread hostile publicity which would substantially impair the Defendant's fair trial rights, and would pose a serious threat to the administration of justice.

That request was denied on July 13, 2012 by Judge Lester. Because there is a Motion for Disqualification pending, this morning, we asked the prosecution not to release Witness #9's statement until there was a ruling on the Motion for Disqualification. This is an appropriate request as, should the motion for disqualification be granted, reconsideration of recent rulings by the judge is appropriate. However, the prosecution elected to make the public disclosure anyway.

Now that this statement is part of the public record, the defense will vigorously defend Mr. Zimmerman against the allegations. In the next several weeks, there will be reciprocal discovery filed regarding Witness #9's statement.

George Zimmerman Out on Bond, In Safehouse

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George Zimmerman is currently in a safehouse provided by his security team located in Seminole County. He left the Seminole County Jail Friday at 2:50 PM after posting bond. In addition to the $15,000 Mr. Zimmerman paid for his previous bond, $85,000 was paid from the George Zimmerman Legal Defense Fund to reach the 10% of the $1,000,000 required. The legal defense team was able to arrange terms sufficient to satisfy collateral requirements on the balance of the bond.

Thanks to the outpouring of support from supporters, at the time of Mr. Zimmerman’s release, more than $36,000 has been added to the George Zimmerman Legal Defense Fund. These donations have helped begin to offset the expense of the new increased bond, but it will require sustained support to fund what Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense.

Mr. Zimmerman’s involvement will prove critical for building his case, and his current bond status will allow him to be an active participant in his defense. The defense team maintains that Mr. Zimmerman has a strong self-defense claims, and that is what we will be focusing on in the months ahead.