Judge Places Limits in George Zimmerman Case, Denies Defense Motion for Delay

Defense attorneys, prosecutors argue over several motions

Attorneys for George Zimmerman argued with prosecutors over several motions Tuesday regarding what will be allowed at his upcoming trial in the shooting of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin, as the judge overseeing the case denied a defense motion asking for a trial delay.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled the trial, scheduled to begin on June 10, will start on time. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, had argued for more time to prepare for the trial, but prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued against a delay.

"This case has dragged on long enough," de la Rionda said.

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Nelson also ruled that Zimmerman's attorneys won't be allowed to discuss Martin's alleged marijuana use, alleged participation in fighting or suspension from school during opening statements of the trial.

Attorneys also won't be allowed to discuss during openings Martin's THC levels in his blood the night of the shooting. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main active ingredient in marijuana.

Also not allowed during opening statements are Martin's texts and social media statements, though some of the personal material may be allowed later depending on how the case progresses, Nelson ruled.

Judge Denies Gag Order in Zimmerman Case

Zimmerman, who is charged with fatally shooting Martin last year during a confrontation at a gated community in Sanford, didn't attend Tuesday's hearing. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense.

Last week, Zimmerman's legal team released information from Martin's cellphone that includes the teen texting with a friend about fighting and smoking marijuana and photos that show a gun.

The photos also show Martin blowing smoke and extending his middle fingers to the camera.

During Tuesday's hearing, Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, told the judge that Martin's alleged marijuana use and past fighting was central to the argument that Zimmerman used self-defense.

PHOTOS: Zimmerman Crime Scene
"We have a lot of evidence that marijuana use had something to do with the event," O'Mara said. "It could have affected his behavior."

After the hearing, Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin's parents, continued to criticize the release of the information.

"This information was not relevant, it was inadmissible," Crump said. "We think it was strategic when this information was released after the jury summons had went out and it was calculated we believe to sway and pollute and influence the jury."

"I'm very happy that the court has given both sides the indication that they need to be cautious in how they present the case," O'Mara said. "The idea of actually trying this case in the six or seven minutes that happened that night, which is what I mentioned to the judge, is what we've been arguing for all along. I refuse however to not be ready for impeachment and rebuttal evidence if it becomes necessary so that's why most of what came out last week came out."

O'Mara said the information about Martin is available if prosecutors make the information relevant.

"I don't have the luxury as a criminal defense attorney to look at this and say, 'I'm just going to ignore this and never ever use it under any circumstances.' You wouldn't want me to do that if I was representing you and I will not do it representing George," O'Mara said. "If it becomes relevant on the way the state handles their case, it's gonna get in front of a jury. If the state handles their case the way they're supposed to, it probably won't need to get in front of a jury. But it's discovery at this point."

Several other motions were also at issue during Tuesday’s hearing.

A defense request that the pool of jury candidates be sequestered during jury selection was denied by Nelson. She also denied the defense's motion to allow the jury to visit the scene of the shooting during the trial, calling it a "logistical nightmare."
Zimmerman's attorneys also argued over the fee for a deposition of one of the prosecution's witnesses, a voice identification expert. Defense attorneys claimed the expert's fee, $3,300 wasn't reasonable. Nelson said she wouldn't set a fee for the witness and said the defense attorneys needed to clarify the fee.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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