George Zimmerman said under oath on Tuesday that he waives pretrial immunity hearing freely, voluntarily, without promise or threats, as he was questioned by Judge Debra S. Nelson about the issue.
Nelson told Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara that she had wanted to question Zimmerman to make sure he can't later claim ineffective assistance. O'Mara attempted to get the judge to allow him to submit an affidavit instead of questioning Zimmerman in court, but Nelson rejected it.
Nelson asked, "Mr. Zimmerman do you freely waive your right to a pre-trial immunity hearing?" Zimmerman responded, "yes." Zimmerman responded yes to all of Nelson's questions about waiving a pretrial immunity hearing freely, voluntarily, without promise or threats.
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Prosecutors had wanted Nelson to “conduct a full inquiry” of Zimmerman to make sure he understood he would not have the haring ahead of his second-degree murder trial in June.
Zimmerman’s attorneys had been coy on the matter, announcing they would not use the two weeks that were set aside for the hearing in April, suggesting they may ask the judge to conduct the hearing during the trial, but didn't commit to a waiver of a pretrial hearing nor a process merged into the trial.
O'Mara told Nelson there was nothing in the law that required the immunity hearing to occur before Zimmerman's trial and could be requested after prosecutors presented their case.
Local 6 legal analyst Luis Calderon said it's necessary to get Zimmerman's consent that he knows he has to raise the motion for pretrial hearing before the trial begins.
"You want to make sure they're aware of that fact and that it's a strategic decision on the part of the defense to go ahead and do it in this manner," Calderon said, continuing that Zimmerman can still seek self-defense immunity during as part of the jury trial.
The Martin family attorney saw Zimmerman's decision as something different.
"This was a victory for all the protesters who ought that George Zimmerman should be arrested," said Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson. "He gave up that right he will proceed to trial, that means everyone who ought he should have been arrested and should proceed to trial ha been vindicated by this judgement today."
O'Mara said he had another view.
"That's an absurd position, that's apples and oranges, the reality is we made a tactical decision how to handle this case ... that's when he's going to get acquitted," he said.
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No fewer than eight motions and demands were heard by Nelson on Tuesday, as Zimmerman sat in the same courtroom where his murder trial is set to begin in six weeks.
He arrived at the Seminole County courthouse Tuesday morning dressed in a suit coat and yellow tie.
The first motion taken up at the hearing was the motion for all data from cellphones belonging to to Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman, as defense attorney Don West said the defense wants to be sure they have all records.
Assistant Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said they are unaware of data that has not been turned over to Zimmerman's attorneys. Nelson ordered the state to share all it has and gets about Martin and Zimmerman's phone calls. The state said it has and will.
The second motion taken up was the defense seeking any enhanced 911 audio files that Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton's family may have listened to. Zimmerman claims he is the one screaming and Martin’s father at first said he could not positively identify them as his son’s screams, but later determined it was Trayvon after, his lawyer said, he listened to a clearer version of the call.
De la Rionda said the defense has all the 911 recordings the state has and was unaware of the cleaned up file that Tracy Martin's dad says he convinced him of his son's calls for help.
"Your honor, I am not Ben Crump, I wasn't there, I wasn't aware of it," de la Rionda said.
Zimmerman case experts are trying to clean up or enhance 911 audio and Nelson said the the "cleaned up" audio must be provided to both sides within 24 hours.
Nelson on Tuesday also granted the defense's motion to add five witnesses to its list of potential witnesses, despite the court having set an April 17 deadline for witness disclosure. The motion does not name the witnesses, only lists them as A, B, C, D and E.
The state did not object the the additional witnesses, only said they should get the same opportunity if it arises. The defense must turn over any reports to the state within 24 hours of the receipt.