George Zimmerman will seek a Stand Your Ground hearing, his defense team announced Thursday. This could give Trayvon Martin's accused murderer a chance to potentially walk free without going to trial.
Zimmerman's legal team made the announcement on a website set up in Zimmerman's defense. "Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense," the statement says. "Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing."
So if the request is granted by Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., what would happen at such a hearing?
George Zimmerman's Stand Your Ground hearing, again if deemed necessary by Judge Lester, will not be in front of a jury. Instead, the trial judge will decide whether or not the law applies.
Florida's Stand Your Ground law allows a defendant to claim immunity from prosecution in certain situations. Immunity can potentially be granted when a person "reasonably believes" deadly force is necessary to prevent "death or great bodily harm ... or to prevent the commission or a forcible felony," according to the law.
At a Stand Your Ground hearing, the defendant bears the burden of proof. That means Zimmerman's lawyers will have to persuade the judge that Zimmerman should get immunity under the law.
If the judge decides that Stand Your Ground immunity applies, the case could be dismissed. Otherwise, the case will proceed to trial.
A Stand Your Ground hearing could pay off for Zimmerman, or it could potentially backfire, one former Florida prosecutor told Reuters. That's because the hearing will give prosecutors a good sense of the defense team's strategy if the case goes to trial, he said.
The lawyer for Trayvon Martin's parents predicted Zimmerman would not get immunity. "A grown man cannot profile and pursue an unarmed child, shoot him in the heart and then claim 'Stand Your Ground," the Martin family's lawyer said in a statement, according to Reuters.
Before George Zimmerman gets a Stand Your Ground hearing, his lawyers must make a formal motion to request one. It's not clear if they've done so, and it's also not clear when such a hearing would take place.
- 'Stand Your Ground' hearing could potentially clear Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin shooting (Fox News)
- Stand Your Ground Laws (FindLaw)
- Stand Your Ground Brawl Erupts in FL Courthouse (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Stand Your Ground Defense Denied in FL Vet's Killing (FindLaw's Blotter)