Prosecutors, George Zimmerman's Attorney Ask To Seal Discovery Materials

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. has ordered a hearing for next Friday, June 1

By Edward B. Colby
|  Thursday, May 24, 2012  |  Updated 11:17 PM EDT
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George Zimmerman appears before Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. Friday, April 20 during a bond hearing in Sanford.

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George Zimmerman’s attorney has agreed with prosecutors’ request that numerous discovery materials be sealed in new court motions.

“The State and Defendant wish to be able to receive a fair trial and try this case in the courtroom and not in the media,” prosecutors wrote in their motion for a protective order from Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. They said that publishing various discovery materials in the media would result in the case being tried in the press and not in court, and would make it not possible to seat a fair, impartial jury in the county.

The state said that releasing evidence such as the names, addresses and phone numbers of potential witnesses would constrain both sides’ ability to hold a fair and independent investigation and present witnesses.

Lester has ordered a hearing on the matter for next Friday afternoon, June 1 in the Sanford courthouse.

In its motion, the state requested that the names and other identifying information of witnesses mentioned in police reports and documents provided to Zimmerman be sealed.

Prosecutors also asked Lester to seal six more categories of discovery materials, including all crime scene photos and photos showing the body of Trayvon Martin, and the 911 phone call of what they called his murder.

Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens after a confrontation Feb. 26 in a gated community in Sanford. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense and said he only fired because the unarmed teenager attacked him. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Prosecutors also asked to seal statements Zimmerman made to law enforcement officers. They said Zimmerman’s statements are inconsistent with the physical evidence and witnesses’ statements, and said some of them are contradictory.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, concurred with the state’s motion in his own filing before the court.

But O’Mara also objected to the release of certain discovery materials he expects to be released by prosecutors, and asked the judge for at least a 30-day delay in the release of discovery so he can review the thousands of pages of materials that have been provided to him.

O’Mara wrote that discovery disclosure began May 14 and will continue in the coming weeks.

“Undersigned counsel is of the reasoned (belief) that the discovery will include certain categories of information which, if disclosed to the media presently, will adversely affect the proper administration of justice in this case, and may make it impossible to find an appropriate jury unaffected by this information,” he wrote.

Prosecutors made public a massive amount of evidence, including recordings and 184 pages of documents, last Thursday, May 17.

O’Mara outlined several categories of information which he indicated he may ask to redact or not disclose, including witnesses’ names and demographic information.

He also asked for time to review statements Zimmerman made, as well as text messages, emails and journal entries from Zimmerman that the state has gathered. O’Mara asserted such texts and emails are not relevant to the case.

Overall, O’Mara made the case that not disclosing certain information would protect Zimmerman’s rights to a fair trial in a case that, as he noted, has received an enormous amount of media and Internet coverage.

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