Lawyers spar over Zimmerman self-defense issue

9:00 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
By Gary W. Green, AP
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The case against the man charged with murdering Trayvon Martin is getting more complicated as prosecutors have asked for a full inquiry into whether George Zimmerman will waive his right to a self-defense hearing and defense lawyers have requested state prosecutors be sanctioned.

Both parties have filed a number of motions ahead of a hearing Tuesday morning before Circuit Judge Debra Nelson in Orlando.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated Sanford, Fla., community. Trayvon's family argues the young man was profiled, pursued and murdered. Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked.

Partly at the center of contention between the legal sides is a motion by Zimmerman's lawyers to make state prosecutors pay $4,555 in attorney's fees. State prosecutors delayed depositions by five hours in March because they objected to them being videotaped, said Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lawyer. The court later ruled that the witnesses -- including a friend of Trayvon who claims she was on the phone with him the night of the shooting -- could be videotaped, he said.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda maintains that no violations occurred and that his office is not liable for any attorney or videographer fees. O'Mara now claims that the wording of de la Rionda's motion included false statements and misrepresentations and should be grounds for sanctioning him.

In the March 28 motion, de la Rionda wrote O'Mara was "grandstanding" and "courts anything resembling a microphone or camera." He also added that O'Mara has made misrepresentations to the court, falsely asserted that Zimmerman was indigent, and has attacked several people including the family of Trayvon Martin, the family's attorney, and members of the news media.

In a motion filed Friday, O'Mara accused de la Rionda of attacking him personally with unfounded "egregious" statements. He asked for sanctions and disciplinary proceedings.

Tuesday's hearing brings with it a number of other issues:

• De la Rionda wants a "full inquiry" into whether Zimmerman will be waiving his right to an immunity hearing, which would allow him to claim self-defense before a judge without a jury.

• O'Mara has asked the judge to unseal a wrongful-death settlement which could have paid $1 million or more to Trayvon's parents. Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents, has filed a motion to keep the settlement sealed.

• Zimmerman's defense also wants to obtain any and all data regarding downloads from any phone or phone number connected to Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie Zimmerman. The team also wants any information that the state's attorney's office or law enforcement has received or investigation concerns regarding Trayvon Martin's phone.

• Zimmerman's lawyer also wants "any and all cleaned up, edited and/or enhanced version(s) of any and all recorded 911 called by Tracy Martin as reference by Benjamin Crump."

Meanwhile, in a Friday redacted motion, O'Mara also asked to add witnesses to the case but does not reveal publicly their names or what type of information they might provide.

Zimmerman's trial is scheduled to begin June 10th.

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