Zimmerman will try stand your ground defense
By David Royse
The News Service Of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FL —Lawyers for George Zimmerman confirmed Thursday that he will assert a “stand your ground” defense, although a judge would determine in a hearing whether he ultimately can claim to have acted in self defense under the Stand Your Ground law.
That means there could essentially be a “mini-trial” ahead of any possible actual second degree murder trial for Zimmerman’s shooting earlier this year of Trayvon Martin, and it could lead to charges being dropped.
The Sanford shooting case, in which Zimmerman has claimed self defense all along, has been watched nationally, in part because of the racial overtones involved, but also because it put the state’s relatively new self defense statute under a microscope, even though the defense has been used numerous times.
“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,” Zimmerman’s defense team said on a website set up for it to communicate with the public. “Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a ‘Stand Your Ground’ hearing.”
Many of the arguments and much of the evidence that would be presented at trial could first be aired at such a hearing, in which the judge would decide whether the case fits the “Stand Your Ground” statute, which says that people who feel legitimately threatened have the right to meet force with force. The burden would be on the defense to prove that the case fits the circumstances laid out in that law. If they do prove that, charges against Zimmerman would be dropped.
In a motion to revoke Zimmerman’s bond for misleading the court, the prosecutor stated, “The Credit Union statements shown on 4/19/2012, the day before the Bond Hearing, Defendant and his wife had access to over $135,00.00. Defendant has intentionally deceived the Court with the assistance of his wife…”
The motion also recalled, “Defendant’s family members misinformed the Court (the State would use a much stronger and accurate word to describe what occurred –Defendant’s wife lied to the Court) about Defendant and his family finances.”
Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, was later arrested and charged with one count of perjury. She was released on $1,000 bond.
“Contrary to the image presented by the Defendant not by evidence but only by argument of counsel, it appears to this Court that the Defendant is manipulating the system to his own benefit,” Judge Lester wrote. “The evidence is clear that the Defendant and his wife acted in concert, but primarily at the Defendant’s direction, to conceal their cash holdings. They spoke in rudimentary code to conceal the true amount of money they were dealing with.”
The judge added, “The Defendant also neglected to disclose that he had a valid second passport in his safe deposit box. Notably, together with the passport, the money only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country if the Defendant made a quick decision to flee. It is entirely reasonable for the Court to find that, but for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the Defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least of $130,000 of other people’s money.”
Later in the decision, Judge Lester repeated his view that Zimmerman was plotting to flee.
“Although there is no record of flight to avoid prosecution, the Court finds that circumstances indicate that the Defendant was preparing to flee to avoid prosecution, but such plans were thwarted,” the judge wrote in his bail order.
Judge Lester observed that Zimmerman had taken courses in criminal justice with the intention of becoming a police officer, an attorney, a judge or a magistrate like his father. In addition, Zimmerman had been arrested before and had completed a pre-trial intervention program. Zimmerman had also filed an injunction and had an injunction filed against him.
“Thus, before this tragic incident, the Defendant had a very sophisticated knowledge of the criminal justice system over and above that of the average, law-abiding citizen,” the judge wrote.
As an example of Zimmerman’s attempt to manipulate judicial proceedings, Judge Lester noted, “The Defendant chose as a matter of strategy, after consultation with his attorney, to not personally take the stand and testify under oath to give an explanation concerning the presentation of false testimony. The Defendant requested special treatment to carve out an exception as to when a Defendant is allowed to exercise the right of allocution.
“The Defendant, through counsel, requested the right to make a statement but not be subject to cross examination. The Court denied the Defendant’s request and the defendant chose not to testify rather than be subject to cross examination.”
Among the conditions set for bail, Zimmerman will be subjected to electronic monitoring at his expense, he can’t leave Seminole County, Fla. without prior authorization of the court, he is forbidden from opening up or maintaining a bank account, he must report to the county’s pre-release department every 48 hours and he must observe a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.
“Under any definition, the Defendant has flouted the system,” Judge Lester wrote. “Counsel has attempted to portray the Defendant as a confused young man who was fearful and experienced a moment of weakness and who may have also acted out of a sense of ‘betrayal’ by the system. Based upon all the evidence presented, this court finds the opposite. The Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so.”