George Zimmerman, the defendant in the murder of Trayvon Martin, waived his right to seek immunity today under Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law before his June trial. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.
George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, waived his right Tuesday to seek immunity under Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law before his June trial.
His lawyers have said they may seek immunity later.
Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty, is a former neighborhood watch volunteer of white and Hispanic descent who has maintained he shot Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in self-defense after Martin attacked him.
The “stand your ground” law says people do not have to retreat if they believe they are in imminent danger of being killed or badly injured.
Kendall Coffey, a former federal prosecutor in Florida and an NBC News legal analyst, said before the hearing that it would be “very strategic” for the defense to waive the “stand your ground” hearing before trial.
“That way, they’re not going to have to show all their cards, and they avoid the risk that a judge might reject the self-defense claim,” he told TODAY.
Speaking softly and answering questions from the judge, Zimmerman said he understood and consented to his lawyers’ decision not to seek a hearing on immunity before the case goes to trial.
The judge, Debra Nelson of Florida circuit court, did not address with Zimmerman whether he might seek immunity during the trial itself.
Mark O’Mara, a lawyer for Zimmerman, complained to judge about what he described as insults and attacks in a pretrial motion of the prosecution. He asked the judge to strike that motion from the court record.
The judge declined but warned both sides that unprofessional behavior by lawyers “will not be tolerated in the future.”
Alluding to intense public interest in the case, O’Mara said the lawyers on both sides should be at their best.
“This is where people are going to think the criminal justice system works or not,” he said. “We’re going to have a verdict in this case, and that verdict has to be believed by everybody who hears about it, good or bad.”
Zimmerman has sued NBCUniversal for defamation in civil court, and the company has strongly denied his allegations.
This story was originally published on Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:12 AM EDT