Gag order, finances discussed at George Zimmerman hearing

Neighborhood watch leader accused of murder in death of Trayvon Martin

SANFORD, Fla. - A judge has refused the prosecution's request and will not issue a gag order on those involved in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, who's accused of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Saying he wouldn't entertain the state's request at this time, Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said Friday he would not stop Zimmerman's attorneys from talking to the media if they chose.

"Attorneys, specifically the defense counsel, are still commenting about the facts of the case," state prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said.

"I've been very careful. ... I don't have the evidence (in the case) yet," said Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara, referring to the fact that the state's evidence has not yet been provided to him via discovery.

O'Mara, a former legal analyst for Local 6, also said in court Friday that his client's case is the "most significant media event in the country."  Zimmerman did not appear at the hearing.

Before ruling that a gag order would not be considered at this time, Lester said both state and defense attorneys had been conducting themselves professionally.

The hearing also dealt with several media organizations, including The Associated Press, asking the judge to unseal documents from Zimmerman's court file.  Lester said he will deal with each potential issue on a case-by-case basis, telling attorneys from both side that if they want something sealed, they should file a motion and a hearing will be held if there's an objection.

The issue of Zimmerman's finances were also discussed at the hearing, with O'Mara saying he didn't know his client had raised $200,000 from a now-defunct website before a bond hearing last week.  O'Mara told Lester that Zimmerman's family hadn't informed him about the money before his client was granted $150,000 bond and suggested his client may not have known he had immediate access to the money, which could be why he didn't disclose it the hearing.

Lester said he wanted to know more information about the money and what Zimmerman knew before deciding whether raise his bond, which the state requested. Lester said he would to that at a hearing after O'Mara gathers the information.

O'Mara said at a news conference after the hearing that the money was an oversight.

"The way it happened was fairly happenstance, there was nothing hidden, there was nothing that they used for any other purpose," O'Mara said. " I don't think that George Zimmerman intentionally deceived anybody. And as soon as it was acknowledged, it was fully disclosed by me."

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 8.

Zimmerman is accused of second-degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The case has drawn national attention because Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer when he shot Martin, who was unarmed.

Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks because he claimed self-defense.
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