No Delay or Gag Order in Zimmerman Trial
May 28, 2013 | WMFE - Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson has denied a request from George Zimmerman's defense team for a six-week delay in the neighborhood watch volunteer's second-degree murder trial, which is scheduled to begin June 10th. It was one of a handful of major rulings that came out of a pre-trial hearing Tuesday morning.
[Image: Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson]
Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O’Mara made his second unsuccessful argument to postpone the case, claiming the prosecution has been uncooperative in turning over key evidence. But Judge Nelson said both sides have had ample time to prepare.
Zimmerman is charged with fatally shooting unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a confrontation inside a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.
During Tuesday morning's hearing, the judge also denied a motion from state prosecutors asking for a gag order. It was Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda’s third such request.
Additionally, Judge Nelson did not grant the defense’s motion asking that the jury be allowed to visit the crime scene, calling it a “logistical nightmare.”
The judge barred both sides from mentioning in their opening statements Trayvon Martin’s marijuana use, past fighting, school suspensions, or material from his texts or social media platforms. The defense said these elements are important to Zimmerman’s case. The prosecution said the issues are irrelevant, since Zimmerman was unaware of them the night of the shooting.
Nelson did reserve the right to reconsider those topics outside the presence of a jury if the prosecution somehow opens the door for the defense to bring them in during the trial.
The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled to begin Friday at 1:30pm. The judge will consider whether jurors' faces can be photographed. As part of Tuesday's hearing, she ruled jurors will be referred to by number instead of by name to protect their privacy during the trial.
Additional hearings are scheduled for Thursday June 6th and Friday June 7th. They are expected to deal in part with the admissibility of state voice recognition experts. The defense is challenging whether the testimony of these experts meets scientific standards for use at trial.
Witnesses called 911 on the night of Martin's shooting, and in the background of those calls is a voice yelling for help. Whether that voice is Zimmerman or Martin is in dispute.
Also on the schedule for those hearings is a closer look into whether the state has committed any violations during the discovery process, as the defense alleges.