The former neighborhood watch leader charged with fatally shooting a Florida teenager told a judge Tuesday that he agrees with his defense attorneys' decision not to seek an immunity hearing under the state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law.
Under questioning from Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, Zimmerman repeatedly said "yes" to a series of questions asking if he was aware he was giving up the right to a hearing before his second-degree murder trial in June. A judge would have sole discretion in an immunity hearing to decide if Zimmerman is exempt from culpability in the shooting. A jury would make the determination in the murder trial.
"After consultation with my counsel, yes, your honor," Zimmerman said.
The judge had set aside two weeks at the end of April for an immunity hearing should Zimmerman want one. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda had filed a motion asking that Zimmerman make clear his intentions on whether he wanted the hearing.
Zimmerman's defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, told the judge Tuesday there was nothing in the law that required the immunity hearing to take place before Zimmerman's trial and could be requested after prosecutors have presented their case.
"We'd much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof," O'Mara said.
"I don't believe it effects the trial's strategy," O'Mara said after the hearing. "We are going to present our self-defense case. It's strong, well-founded in forensic evidence and witnesses."
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense. Martin was fatally shot in February 2012 during a fight with Zimmerman in a Sanford gated community.
"This was a victory for all the protestors who thought George Zimmerman should be arrested in the first place," said Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Martin family. "Zimmerman gave up his right in court to have a pretrial determination of whether or not he'll proceed to trial."
O'Mara also wanted the court to unseal details on a civil settlement Martin's parents received from Zimmerman's homeowner's association. O'Mara contended the settlement could influence the testimony of Martin's parents, if they are called as witnesses.
The judge said defense attorneys and prosecutors could see full copies of the settlement but the public would only be able to see a version from which some information has been removed.
Nelson rejected a request by O'Mara to find fault with prosecutors for what the defense attorney described as violations in providing discovery evidence to them. O'Mara said that prosecutors' failure to disclose evidence in a timely manner had caused his team "hours and hours of work."
The judge said she would hold a hearing after the trial to determine if prosecutors should have to pay for some costs that O'Mara said he incurred because of the alleged discovery problems.
No fewer than eight motions and demands were heard by Nelson on Tuesday, as Zimmerman sits in the same courtroom where his murder trial is set to begin in six weeks.
Channel 4's Tarik Minor was in the courtroom for Tuesday's hearing. He'll have full reports on The Local Station beginning at 5 p.m.