SANFORD, Fla. - As the trial of George Zimmerman approaches, the state is now demanding the accused killer of Trayvon Martin be questioned by the judge on whether his defense will invoke the state's Stand Your Ground law.
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda Tuesday filed a motion requesting that Zimmerman appear at next Tuesday's pretrial hearing so he can be told his rights to a pretrial immunity challenge and, if he chooses, waive them. Failure to establish a clear record that Zimmerman knowingly waived those rights could give him grounds for appeal if he is convicted, de la Rionda argued.
On March 5, defense attorney Mark O'Mara backed off plans to use a pretrial hearing to attempt to prove Zimmerman acted in self-defense and, therefore, deserved both criminal and civil immunity for killing Martin.
O'Mara suggested the self-defense immunity hearing could be merged into the trial, but de la Rionda's latest motion objects to that, as well.
If Judge Debra Nelson grants the motion, Zimmerman would appear Tuesday at the courthouse here for a hearing previously scheduled to handle other matters.
Also Wednesday, the defense revealed that prosecutors last week deposed several witnesses close to Zimmerman, including his mother, father, brother, neighbors and supporters.
Also set for Tuesday's hearings, defense motions seeking: all data downloaded from cellphones belonging to George and Shellie Zimmerman; sanctions from the state attorney's office for alleged discovery violations; and the unsealing of a confidential settlement reached by Martin's family with the homeowners association that allowed Zimmerman to lead its neighborhood watch program.
Zimmerman shot Martin to death on Feb. 26, 2012 after telling a police dispatcher he was following the 17-year-old, who Zimmerman thought appeared to be "up to no good" and "on drugs." Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense after Martin attacked him, smashing his head repeatedly into a concrete sidewalk in the Retreat at Twin lakes complex.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in April 2012 after widespread public outcry over the Sanford police decision not to arrest him unless state prosecutors determined probable cause existed.
Meanwhile, one matter that has been appealed from Nelson's court still has to be resolved before jury selection can begin, as planned, on June 10.
The state has until April 28 to file pleadings with the Fifth District Court of Appeals arguing why the court should not at least consider a request by the defense to depose Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney.
Nelson twice denied that request, but the appeals court is considering whether to accept Zimmerman's appeal of those rulings.
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