As attorneys for George Zimmerman shocked court watchers by essentially passing up an opportunity to have his case thrown out at a hearing in April, prosecutors had to make the embarrassing admission that one of their main witnesses, Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend, told a lie during her testimony.
Many of the pre-trial machinations in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial for killing the 17-year-old teen a year ago centered around his use of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” defense, which Zimmerman claims gave him the right to shoot Martin in the chest because he thought his life was in danger.
A highly-anticipated “Stand Your Ground” hearing was to be held in April, where the judge would decide whether to grant Zimmerman immunity from prosecution under a Florida law that gives people who believe they are in imminent danger of being killed or seriously hurt the benefit of the doubt to protect themselves. But Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara yesterday appeared to close the door on the pre-trial hearing, saying he might scrap it altogether or roll it into the the second-degree-murder trial that begins June 10.
“Our real focus is getting ready for the trial,” O’Mara said.
The lawyer said Zimmerman wants to be tried by a jury of his peers, and with fewer than 100 days until trial, “There’s only time for one hearing, and that’s a jury trial. . . We have precious little time.”
As for Martin’s girlfriend, identified in court papers simply as “witness 8,” she claimed she was on the phone with Martin just moments before he was shot, when he told her that he was scared of a strange man following him. She also previously claimed that after hearing the shooting over Martin’s phone, she was hospitalized for trauma. But prosecutors had to admit the hospitalization wasn’t true—an admission the defense lawyers will surely use to question her credibility on the phone conversation.
When reporters asked the state’s lead prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, whether he intended to charge the 19-year-old Miami teen with perjury, he ambiguously said, “You can all read the law and make your own decision.”
The woman had said she was in the hospital on the day of Martin’s funeral, but “In fact, she lied,” defense attorney Don West said.
Zimmerman was not at yesterday’s hearing, nor was his wife, Shellie, who is awaiting her own trial on a perjury charge, accused of lying at her husband’s April 20 2012 bond hearing about their income.
Zimmerman’s defense team also sought any criminal history police may have on Martin, as well as his social media history. Authorities agreed to hand over the documents to Circuit Judge Debra Nelson for her to review them and determine if the defense should have them.