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Luscombe writes: "Zimmerman appeared before Judge Mark Herr in a short hearing at the Seminole County jail in Sanford. His arraignment was set for 29 May, when his formal plea of not guilty will be entered."

George Zimmerman appeared in court in Sanford, Florida. (photo: pool)
George Zimmerman appeared in court in Sanford, Florida. (photo: pool)

George Zimmerman Appears in Court on Trayvon Martin Murder Charge

By Richard Luscombe, Guardian UK

123 April 12


eorge Zimmerman has made his first appearance in court, less than 24 hours he was arrested and charged with the murder of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman appeared before Judge Mark Herr in a short hearing at the Seminole County jail in Sanford.

His arraignment was set for 29 May, when his formal plea of not guilty will be entered. There was no application for bail during Thursday's hearing. It is likely that his attorney will apply for a bond hearing before the arraignment.

Speaking before the hearing, attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman, 28, was planning to plead not guilty. His client, O'Mara said, had "been through a lot" since he shot and killed Martin, 17, during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford on 26 February.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey ended 44 days of uncertainty on Wednesday when she announced that Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder, an offence that carries a sentence from 25 years to life in prison.

Zimmerman was not arrested at the time because police believed his claims of self-defence, enraging Martin's family and sparking six weeks of mass protests in central Florida and elsewhere.

"I would like to get him out. I need to get him out to assist me in going over all the evidence and preparing our defence," said O'Mara, who met his new client for the first time on Wednesday evening.

"He is stressed. He's tired. He's been through a lot with the way this case has been handled to date. I'm just hoping that his mental health stays well and that we can move forward in getting this case figured out."

Zimmerman has been held in protective custody since his arrest on Thursday, with his brother Robert declaring that the family was disappointed by the severity of the charge.

"They [prosecutors] have thrown the book at him," Robert Zimmerman told CNN. "I would have hoped the more courageous decision would be to say we're not prosecuting, and here's why. Our brother could have been dead, our brother had to save his life by taking a life.

"The incident has been weighing on my brother in a way I couldn't possibly describe. As a family we're devastated. We are a strong family and we have been living a somewhat altered reality for some time."

"I trust that the system, the judge, the prosecutor and I will be able to, should the need arise, to get ourselves a fair and impartial jury to hear the case," he said.

Some legal analysts believe it might be difficult for state attorney Corey to make a murder charge stick against a defence under Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law, which allows for the use of deadly force if a citizen perceives his life to be in danger.

Zimmerman has claimed he was under attack from Martin, who was unarmed, and fired in self-defence.

"The only hurdle I see is a stand-your-ground motion to dismiss that will have to be made," Kenneth Nunn, a senior professor at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law, told the Guardian.

"The burden is on the defendant to show stand your ground applies, but the standard is only a preponderance of the evidence. If Zimmerman shows that then it is dismissed and Ms Corey's case goes away at that point. The prosecutor should be able to overcome that – but it's going to be a very difficult case."

Prof Nunn said he believed Corey might also have had a possible plea bargain, or a jury's "propensity to compromise" in mind when she decided to file a murder charge.

"Going in high and settling for manslaughter would be preferable to a manslaughter charge then settling for something like a gun charge," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she believed that the shooting was "an accident".

"One of things I still believe in is a person should apologise when they're remorseful for what they've done," she told NBC's Today show.

"I believe it was an accident. I believe it just got out of control and he couldn't turn the clock back."

Frederica Wilson, the Miami congresswoman whose constituency includes Martin's home, said that Thursday's court hearing for Zimmerman was an important first step for the family following their protracted battle to have him arrested.

"I am thankful that the wheels of justice will continue to turn. This is just the beginning and we have a long process ahead of us," she said.

"The evidence influenced [Corey] to charge him but the outcry helped bring the case to justice. This case would never have been brought without that outcry. It was a case that almost slipped through the system without the public ever knowing about it." your social media marketing partner


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+19 # pianosaurus rex 2012-04-12 17:56
Zimmerman’s lawyer on Zimmerman:

"He is stressed. He's tired. He's been through a lot with the way this case has been handled to date. I'm just hoping that his mental health stays well and that we can move forward in getting this case figured out."

The poor thing……

BTW O’Mara, I have a rather unimportant question to ask.

How is the health of one Trayvon Martin?
+7 # propsguy 2012-04-13 06:15
he sounds like the CEO of BP who said he just wanted his life back- a petulant spoiled child
+5 # Valleyboy 2012-04-13 06:52
I really noticed that too!

Can you imagine a black man who'd murdered someone getting all these excuses made for him by the corporate media??

Simple answer: No feckin' way.
+9 # Billy Bob 2012-04-13 07:17
I know. Maybe a better time to assess his mental health was before he was given a gun.
+5 # infohiway 2012-04-13 07:30
Out comes the 'sympathy card'!

Whilst pathetically 'selling the shooter as THE VICTIM' - now -
GZ's counsel will doubtless try to convince us all that
Trayvon was crazed;
proven so because he (according to GZ's version) deliberately decided to harass and assault
a total stranger,
in a 'carry state' - no less,
obviously made bold and over-confident by bringing Skittles to a gunfight?

Armed with Skittles - eh?
Not close and no cigar, O'Mara. Try again.

Uh oh!
Here comes 'diminished responsibility' - jockeying to cop-a-plea or
run the temporary (past and/or present) insanity 'defence'?

Did the police bother to hang on to the 'murder weapon' for forensic / ballistic tests or
just send him on home with it?

IMHO: 'Captain Barney' got one bullet too many - huh?
+7 # feloneouscat 2012-04-13 09:09
"According to Zimmerman, he was on his way to the grocery store when he saw Martin walking through the gated community, The Retreat at Twin Lakes. He called police and reported that he saw a suspicious person, a black male, who was acting strangely and thought he might be on drugs. Recordings of the conversation between Zimmerman and the dispatcher verify this, although it had not been initially released." Time Magazine

Self defense? No. Self defense would be to lock the doors and stay in the vehicle and call the police (which he did and who said DON'T FOLLOW HIM).

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Zimmerman's account is true, I see several flaws for any defense:

1) Had Zimmerman stayed in his vehicle, he would not have been attacked

2) Had Zimmerman bothered to listen to police, he would not have been attacked

3) Had Zimmerman not been carrying a gun, there wouldn't be a dead teen

Here is the problem with the "stand your ground" defense IMHO: by leaving his vehicle, despite what the police told him to do, he actively engaged in behavior that could be perceived as predatory (i.e. following). The fact that he was following with a weapon becomes even more suspicious.

Questions: WHY was Martin lying face down? WHY was Zimmerman not tested for alcohol or drugs? If Martin was on top of Zimmerman, HOW did Zimmerman get to his gun?
+10 # OldRedleg 2012-04-13 09:48
Hey 'cat,

You are asking way too many potentially embarrassing questions and trying to support them with factual evidence! You need to go over to FOX news and learn the fair and balanced truths of the incident.

On a more serious note, the biggest miscarriage of justice from the Stand Your Ground (AKA License To Kill) law is that it is designed to automatically assume righteous innocence on the part of the shooter and guilt on the part of the injured or dead assailant(victi m) without a requisite judicial investigation. The ugly fact that so many people support this kind of stupid vigilante law is a truly sad statement on our society!
0 # Billy Bob 2012-04-15 21:44
Extremely well thought out and worded.
+2 # AMLLLLL 2012-04-14 07:35
They have also played past 911 calls that Zimmermann made that sound similar:"...Bla ck male; ..acting suspicious.. looks like he's on drugs or something...."

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