George Zimmerman, 29, appeared in court Tuesday and affirmed that he did not want a pre-trial "stand your ground" immunity hearing. His lawyers alleged the prosecution had withheld information ahead of Zimmerman's June trial for second degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman spoke in court for the first time in more than a year, ABC News reports, answering "Yes, your honor" and "No, your honor" in response to questions from District Court Judge Debra Nelson.
By waving the pre-trial immunity hearing, Zimmerman reserves the right to use the state's so-called "stand your ground" law during his trial. The immunity hearing would have granted the judge the right to drop the charges against Zimmerman if she deemed his actions justifiable under the law. The "stand your ground" law gives Floridians the right to defend themselves with deadly force if they feel in danger and does not compel them to attempt to leave the area first.
Zimmerman, at the time a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Martin after he followed the teen, who he deemed suspicious, as he returned from a local convenience store. Zimmerman said the shooting was in self-defense after Martin attacked him. Zimmerman was previously renowned in the neighborhood for his diligent reporting of minor infractions, logging 46 calls to 911 about issues ranging from trash collection to loud parties from 2004 through 2012.
On the night of the shooting, Zimmerman was photographed with a gash on the back of his head, ABC News reported. Police questioned him, but he was not immediately charged with committing a crime.
Special prosecutor Angela Corey unveiled the charges against Zimmerman on April 11, 2012, 45 days after the shooting. The decision to prosecute Zimmerman was made after a protracted public debate. Many African-American leaders alleged that Zimmerman was not immediately charged because the victim was black. Defenders of Zimmerman objected to the frenzied calls for prosecution.
During Tuesday's court hearing Zimmerman's attorneys said that prosecutors have withheld information about "Witness 8," believed to be Martin's girlfriend, with whom he had a phone conversation the night of the shooting. "We can't get ready for trial," defense lawyer Mark O'Mara said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "We will be unprepared for trial because of everything they've done to us."
"What happened that night is that George Zimmerman did nothing wrong, that he was attacked by Trayvon Martin," O'Mara said after the hearing, the Sentinel reports.