George Zimmerman, the Florida resident accused of murdering Trayvon Martin in February 2012, has waived his right to a pre-trial defense immunity hearing.
Had Zimmerman taken advantage of his immunity hearing, he and his legal team would only have had to present their self-defense case to a judge instead of a full jury. Zimmerman reviewed his case with his legal team and believes he can be successfully acquitted of the murder charges through a standard trial.
"George wants this case before a jury of his peers--that's where he's going to be acquitted," Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara said. O’Mara added that Zimmerman’s case is a “straight forward self-defense case.”
Zimmerman’s decision to decline his immunity hearing is a gamble. If he is convicted of his murder charges, Zimmerman will face up to 25 years in prison. He will still plead innocence out of self-defense. Florida’s stand-your-ground law allows people to use deadly force out of self-defense when they fear their life is in danger.
O’Mara said the decision to waive the pre-trial is due to the unique nature of the case as well as the exposure the case has received.
“Because, as I’ve mentioned at a previous hearing, because of the unique nature of this case and because of the way we’ve decided to handle it, we would much rather have a jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof,” O’Mara said. “There’s nothing in the rules that suggests that has to be handled pre-trial.”
O’Mara’s recommendation for Zimmerman indicates that his case may have been difficult to win in a pre-trial hearing. Had Zimmerman lost his pre-trial hearing, he would have already been deemed guilty by a judge going into his trial hearing. If that were to occur, Zimmerman would no longer have the legal advantage of being innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof would have shifted from prosecutors to O’Mara, who would then have to absolve a client that is already presumed guilty.
Zimmerman’s case has created a polarized response from the public. He shot Martin, 17 at the time, with a single shot to chest in Sanford, Florida after the two were wrestling on the ground. Zimmerman claims he shot the teenager out of self-defense, but prosecuting attorneys say Zimmerman profiled the black teenager and then pursued and instigated an altercation with Martin before shooting him.
Zimmerman’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 10th.