Zimmerman Turns Down "Stand Your Ground" Pre-Trial Hearing

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 30 2013 2:37 PM

Zimmerman Doesn't Want a Judge to Rule on the "Stand Your Ground" Issue (at Least Not Yet)

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George Zimmerman arrives in Seminole circuit court with his attorney Mark O'Mara for a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday

Photo by Joe Burbank/Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman has opted to put his fate in the hands of a jury, and not a judge who could have in theory granted him immunity in Trayvon Martin's death before the second-degree murder trial even began. Here's ABC News with the details from today's hearing during which Zimmerman officially waived his right to a pre-trial Stand Your Ground hearing:

The pre-trial immunity hearing would have given the judge the discretion to free Zimmerman precluding the need for a trial. But the validity of a Stand Your Ground defense would be determined solely by a judge after a hearing. Zimmerman's defense team has decided to put their case before an entire jury.
"We'd much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof," Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara said.
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Even though the defense waived off a pre-trial SYG hearing before a judge, one isn't entirely off the table for Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge he faces. It looks like Zimmerman's defense team is going to wait until after they've seen the prosecution's case against him before making a final determination on the hearing, which O'Mara suggested today could be called at any time during the trial, or even after, according to the Associated Press.

Today's proceedings were also noteworthy because they represented the first time that the defendant has spoken aloud in court, although a noticeably heavier Zimmerman responded only with yes or no answers to the judge's questions.

As the Orlando Sentinel explains, the previously unanswered questions about if and when Zimmerman may call for a SYG hearing are only part of the current battle between the two legal teams:

The last portion of the hearing centered on the defense's requests that [the judge] admonish and fine prosecutors for, according to the defense, hiding information and causing delays. For example, the defense says the state delayed in revealing that Witness 8, who was on the phone with Trayvon in the moments before his shooting, lied about going to the hospital after learning of his death. "We can't get ready for trial," O'Mara said. "We will be unprepared for trial because of everything they've done to us." However, the judge was skeptical of his argument.

Zimmerman's murder trial is scheduled to begin on June 10. 

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.