Judge denies George Zimmerman motion to depose Ben Crump

Defense's subpoenas granted for voice samples of Trayvon Martin

(Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Courtesy GlobalGrind.com)

SANFORD, Fla. – A judge on Friday ruled that the defense team for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, cannot depose Ben Crump, the attorney representing the slain teen's family.

Zimmerman's lead attorney, Mark O'Mara, and attorney Don West argued the motion, seeking to question Crump.  Zimmerman and Crump did not attend the hearing.

Judge Debra Nelson said the deposition was not needed and there was no undue prejudice. She also said that the defense has not yet deposed Witness 8, whose interview with Crump is in question, even though they've had her identity for 10 months.

Nelson did grant the defense's motions for subpoenas of voice samples from Martin over the last three years. If they exist, the audio samples are in the possession of Martin's family and Witness 8.

The defense said they wanted to depose Crump before holding a deposition with Witness 8, a friend of Martin who told Crump that she was on the phone with Martin before he was shot and killed last February in a gated Sanford community.

"It is widely accepted that (the recording of the Crump's interview with Witness 8) is largely unintelligible," West said.

The defense believed Crump should have been forced to reveal details of the interview and give insight to the inaudible words.

West also said the age of the key witness was misrepresented.  He said that she was 18 years old at the time of the shooting, not 16 as previously released. He also tried to argue that Crump made himself a witness in the case when he interviewed the girl.

"Mr. Crump chose to conduct the interview in the fashion that he did.  He chose to have ABC News present.  It's not clear to me how and why that was set up," West said. "He chose not to have law enforcement present, in fact, (he) withheld this witness from law enforcement for some time ... He made himself a witness."

Nelson interrupted West, saying that talking to the media doesn't subject lawyers to being deposed.

West replied, saying that Crump is a "fact witness" because of the interaction with Witness 8.

"What is the relevant information that you think Mr. Crump has?" Nelson said, asking the defense to specify the information, not speculate. "You have to provide the court with what relevant information he has."

West said that the relevant information in the taped interview with Witness 8 are the gaps in the interview, but Nelson said the best evidence is taking the deposition of Witness 8.

"Witness 8 has been represented as the single most important witness in the case," West said. "She has been cloaked in secrecy.  We need to know what led up to her being interviewed by Mr. de la Rionda."

Crump had previously submitted an affidavit, citing a formal deposition could jeopardize attorney-client privilege.

West said Crump doesn't have attorney-client privilege with Witness 8. West said the defense doesn't accept the affidavit in place of speaking with Crump and that Crump should have to show why he shouldn't have to be deposed.

West also said Crump should be deposed over his allegations of the Sanford Police Department "conspiracy to cover up" Martin's death. Crump further accused officers of lying, West said, along with Sanford police lying about whether Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father, identified the screaming in the background of the 911 call.

Bruce Blackwell, representing Crump, spoke at the hearing, as he filed the 15-page affidavit opposing the defense to depose Crump.

Blackwell said it would be "absolutely inappropriate" to depose Crump and called the defense's attempt to depose Crump a "sideshow" with no support under the law.

Blackwell continued, saying if Crump had chosen to keep the Witness 8 interview to himself that "we wouldn't be here.""

"Why haven't they deposed Witness 8?" Blackwell said. "What's relevant is what Witness 8 said, what she heard, what went on."

Blackwell also said the Martins will be filing a lawsuit against Zimmerman.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda spoke next, saying that the prosecutors "completely agree" with Crump and have no intention of calling him as a witness.

"The bottom line is Mr. Crump has not been listed as a witness by the state," de la Rionda.

The defense had also requested information about Martin's family and Witness 8, including their addresses, but the state opposed the motion, saying they don't know where exactly Zimmerman is located.

Nelson ruled that Zimmerman's attorneys have had 11 months to do depositions and can ask witness their addresses during depositions. The addresses will be redacted in the depositions, Nelson said.

Nelson said the state won't be forced to give Witness 8's address to the defense, but the defense can get the address during a deposition.

Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.  His trial is set for June.