Zimmerman judge seals all witness IDs
The judge in the George Zimmerman case has agreed to release additional evidence to the public, but sealed all witness identities, according to an order released Wednesday.
All victim's statements not already released will be, but without any identifying information.
Attorneys didn't want the witness identities to be released because they said it would be impossible to pick a jury, media coverage would subject witnesses to harassment, and it would prevent other witnesses from coming forward.
The judge decided to seal the witnesses identities because he said releasing them poses a threat to the administration of justice, only a change of venue would protect Zimmerman's right to a fair trial, and closing the information will protect Zimmerman's rights.
"Should innocent eyewitnesses be forced to have their names dragged through the mud and their entire lives investigated merely because they suffered the misfortune of living in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community on February 26, 2012?" Judge Kenneth Lester wrote. "The majority of the case law provided by the media predates the blogosphere, where the Internet has made news and opinion instantly available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."
Jacksonville defense attorney Dale Carson applauds the judge's decision to release the information that prosecutors had initially said they wanted to keep private pre-trial so Zimmerman's case wouldn't be tried in the media. But, Carson said they don't have a choice and in Florida, that information has to be released.
"We only have to look back a few short months to know that by not disclosing the full extent of injuries to the media initially, we were left with a view that here's an individual who attacked and killed someone with no provocation at all," Carson said. "And that was not an authentic view. The true view was he was injured in a dispute with someone and as a result someone died."
Defense lawyers have voiced concern that all this information being made public could hinder Zimmerman's right to a fair trial, but Carson disagrees. Along with a number of other legal experts, Carson cites the Casey Anthony trial where the public knew most everything and the trial was still able to be carried out.
"The fact that the state attorney would withhold [evidence] is a bit frightening," Carson said. "Provided the fact that it doesn't compromise an ongoing investigation."
Zimmerman's statements to police will also be released because he admitted shooting Martin in open court, according to the order. Those statements are not considered a confession, as he claims self-defense, the order says.
More crime scene photos will be released, as well as transcriptions of Zimmerman's jail calls to his wife, but not the calls themselves, according to the order.
Zimmerman is charged with murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February.
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