Zimmerman Defense Begins Discovery Process

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The Defense has begun its own discovery process now that the State has delivered substantially all of its discovery in the case against George Zimmerman. To date, there are still a number of items that the State has not submitted to the Defense that we feel are relevant to the case. We will be seeking these items and evidence through all appropriate means.

Our first request is a series of Subpoenas for Production of Documents requesting school records for Trayvon Martin. In the coming weeks, we will be issuing subpoenas for other items including potentially relevant data from social media platforms, reports related to chain of custody to key evidence, interviews and more.

It has become our practice to post to our website legal documents related the case as they become public record, and this will continue to be the case with our discovery requests. Moreover, any discovery we submit that becomes public record will also be posted on our website. In the case of Trayvon Martin’s school records, they are protected and will NOT be part of the public record, without appropriate court order.

Defense Closing the George Zimmerman Legal Case Page on Facebook

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Today we are inactivating the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook. We established the page in late April as a companion to the GZlegalcase.com website and @gzlegalcase Twitter account. On April 28, we published an article called “Why Social Media for George Zimmerman,” where we established seven goals for our digital media presence. While Facebook helped meet most of these goals during the first three months of its activation, it has been providing diminishing returns since and has increasingly become a concern to us.

How Facebook Helped Achieve Our Goals

Regarding our goals of Disputing Misinformation, Providing a Voice for Mr. Zimmerman, and Raising Funds, Facebook served to amplify the messages we posted on the GZlegalcase.com website. For three of our other goals, however, Facebook served a more crucial role:

1. Discrediting and Eliminating Fraudulent Websites and Social Profiles

In April and May there were a number of false George Zimmerman profiles on Facebook, and there were a number of unofficial support pages. By establishing an “official” page on Facebook we were able to discredit the false profiles and establish that unofficial support pages were not associated with the defense. Now, months later, false George Zimmerman profiles are rare, and remaining unofficial Zimmerman support pages are understood not to be endorsed by us. Consequently, we no longer require our page on Facebook to meet this goal.

2. Providing a Forum for Communication With the Law Firm

In the first weeks after we took on the defense of Mr. Zimmerman, our offices were deluged with phone calls, emails, and correspondence. Our presence on Facebook provided an appropriate and accessible way for people to ask questions and express opinions in a place where they were heard, while not being disruptive to our practice. Today, the demand to communicate with our firm regarding this case has subsided and is now more manageable, and we no longer require our page on Facebook to serve this purpose.

3. Acknowledging the Larger Significance of the Case

While we have been focused on Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense, we acknowledge that the public interest in this matter revolves around racial tensions, gun rights, media’s treatment of people involved in this case, and various other considerations. We felt it was appropriate to focus our attention only on facts and issues specifically relevant to the case, and we spoke rarely regarding the larger issues surrounding the case. However, during this time, conversations about these issues appeared in the threads associated with our posts on Facebook, and when appropriate, we allowed them to stand as an acknowledgment to the larger issues at play. However, moving forward, we will address these issues in more appropriate forums, and we no longer need the page on Facebook to fill this role.

How Facebook Has Not Helped

One of our published goals is Discouraging Speculation, and Facebook, by its nature, does not help us with this goal. Every post made on Facebook becomes an open thread where anyone on the site can comment, and comments inevitably lead to conversations about evidence and speculation about guilt or innocence. This type of conversation is a natural part of discourse, and there are plenty of places on the Internet where it is appropriate for this to happen, but it need not happen on a page hosted by the defense.

This illustrates our biggest challenge with the page on Facebook: we cannot post without allowing comments. With comments active, each thread becomes a discussion forum. While we are not responsible for the comments people leave on our page, because we have the ability to delete comments, what we choose not to delete reflects on the defense team. Since we can ban users from posting on the page, who we choose not to ban reflects on the defense team. Admittedly, it does not always reflect well, and that is a concern for the defense. Because our page on Facebook has already accomplished many of our goals, allowing this concern to exist is not prudent.

A Word About Zimmerman Supporters on Facebook

Periodically we have asked the supporters on the page on Facebook why they support George Zimmerman. They tell us George has their support because they believe he was the victim of a coordinated public relations attack. Many believe George was treated unfairly by the news media. Many also believe George acted properly in self-defense. They empathize with George because of the position he finds himself in, and they fear it could happen to them.

It has been suggested that George Zimmerman supporters are racially motivated. For the vast majority of George Zimmerman supporters, this is not true; however, we have banned a very small number of users for making any comment that seemed negative toward race. The irony is that if these people truly understood Mr. Zimmerman’s diverse ethnicity, George Zimmerman himself could be a target of their negativity. Certainly we acknowledge that this case has led to an uncovering of, and at times a polarizing of, race-based feelings in our community and throughout our nation. We will not let the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook be a part of any such agenda, and we do not want the handful of those so inclined to reflect negatively on the overwhelming majority of individuals who support Mr. Zimmerman for legitimate reasons.

It should be noted that many of the people who have shown legitimate support for Mr. Zimmerman on the page on Facebook have received threats and have been harassed online, yet they have continued to voice their support. Those supporters have our sincere thanks.

Moving Forward

A link to this article will be our last post on Facebook for the foreseeable future. We will leave the post up until the end of the day, at which time the George Zimmerman Legal Case page on Facebook will be unpublished. We are reserving the ability to reactivate it in the future should it be appropriate or necessary.

We will continue to include the Facebook “Like” button on each article we publish on the GZlegalcase.com website which allows the content to circulate widely through individual’s news feeds on Facebook.

In the near future, we will be making upgrades to the GZlegalcase.com website to make it easier for people interested in the case to ask questions and to share information with the legal team.

There Will Be A "Stand Your Ground" Hearing in the George Zimmerman Case

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Since the beginning, there has been a rush to judgment in the case against George Zimmerman. Since the first day of his involvement, Mr. O’Mara has emphasized that people should be patient and wait for the evidence to be released before forming opinions about the case.

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. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

In the case against George Zimmerman, a “Stand Your Ground” hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

There are significant differences between a “Stand Your Ground” hearing and a trial. In a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, there is no jury; the decision is made by the judge alone. In a criminal trial, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, the burden is on the defense to prove that the evidence fits the conditions of the “Stand Your Ground” law. If the Court rules in favor of the defendant in a “Stand Your Ground” hearing, not only are criminal charges dismissed, the defendant is also immune from civil actions related to the shooting. The primary focus of a “Stand Your Ground” hearing is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent great bodily harm to himself at the hands of Trayvon Martin.

Preparing for the “Stand Your Ground” hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for a trial. It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts, and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing. We anticipate this will still take several months. Mr. O’Mara, again, urges everyone to be patient during this process and to reserve judgment until the evidence is presented in the “Stand Your Ground” hearing.

Zimmerman Defense Files Motion to Continue

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The Court granted the defense team’s Motion to Continue, which postpones the Docket Sounding scheduled on Wednesday August 8 until October 3. The purpose of a Docket Sounding is to provide the Court with an update regarding the progress of the case, and to establish a timeline for official legal proceedings, whether that be motion hearings, disposition, or trial.

We filed our Motion to Continue because there is still a great deal of information to be gathered regarding this case, and we are in the early stages of preparing our reciprocal discovery -- a process that can take a few months -- and it is simply too early in the process to set firm trial dates.

This motion is consistent with a rough timeline for defending Mr. Zimmerman that we described in a release dated June 1, a timeline that includes: drafting discovery requests and working through potential resistance; deposing more than 50 potential witnesses and experts; and filing appropriate motions (including a potential “stand your ground” motion).

Moreover, since our June 1 statement, a number of issues, including the revocation of Mr. Zimmerman’s bond and our Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge, have added to the complexity of the defense process.

Moving forward, we expect there will be additional motions to continue, and it is anticipated, though not certain, that this case will not be ready for trial until early next year.

Zimmerman Defense Responds to Witness #9 Statements

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Today the State released Witness #9's Statements along with Mr. Zimmerman's phone calls from jail in response to the Court's July 13 order.

In her statements, Witness #9, who is George Zimmerman's cousin, alleges that Mr. Zimmerman inappropriately touched her beginning when she was 6 and Mr. Zimmerman was almost 8, and that it continued on occasion until she was 16 and Mr. Zimmerman was 17.

The defense moved to block the public release of Witness #9's statement in a motion filed on June 18, 2012 contending "The content of this statement is not relevant to the issues of this case, and it would not be admissible in the State's case in chief." The motion further contends that this irrelevant statement should be withheld from public dissemination because of the substantial risk that public disclosure will lead to widespread hostile publicity which would substantially impair the Defendant's fair trial rights, and would pose a serious threat to the administration of justice.

That request was denied on July 13, 2012 by Judge Lester. Because there is a Motion for Disqualification pending, this morning, we asked the prosecution not to release Witness #9's statement until there was a ruling on the Motion for Disqualification. This is an appropriate request as, should the motion for disqualification be granted, reconsideration of recent rulings by the judge is appropriate. However, the prosecution elected to make the public disclosure anyway.

Now that this statement is part of the public record, the defense will vigorously defend Mr. Zimmerman against the allegations. In the next several weeks, there will be reciprocal discovery filed regarding Witness #9's statement.