George Zimmerman, 28, charged with the murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, will seek to have second-degree murder charges dismissed under Florida's 'stand your ground' law, his attorney said on Thursday.
If successful in securing a hearing under the law, it could result in the dismissal of all criminal charges against the man accused of killing Martin.
The hearing, which is not expected to take place for several months, will involve evidence collected by prosecutors as well as expert testimony from both sides. Accoring to the New York Post, legal experts believe that Zimmerman himself will testify since he is the sole survivor of the February 26 confrontation.
'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,' a statement posted on Zimmerman's official defense website said.
Under the controversial Florida law, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester could dismiss the charges if Zimmerman conclusively shows he shot Martin because he 'reasonably believed' he might be killed or suffer 'great bodily harm' at the hands of the unarmed teenager.
Traditional trial structures are turned upside down by a 'stand your ground' hearing. A judge decides the outcome, not a jury. The burden of proof lies with the defense, not the prosecution. And the requirements of what needs to be proved are much lower. Nearly 70% of defendants using a 'stand your ground' defense have gone free since the law passed in 2005.
Evidence released by prosecutors shows 'clear support for a strong claim of self-defense,' Zimmerman's defense website claimed this week. The statement added that Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara 'urges everyone to be patient during this process and to reserve judgment until the evidence is presented in the 'stand your ground' hearing.'
Martin's parents have claimed that Zimmerman singled out their son as he was returning from a convenience store because he was black and that it was Zimmerman's aggression that led to his death.
Zimmerman is currently free on $1 million bail and faces a possible life prison sentence if convicted of second-degree murder. If his 'stand your ground' claim is successful the criminal charges against him would be dismissed and he could not be held liable in any civil action such as a wrongful death lawsuit. Prosecutors would be expected to appeal a successful self-defense claim.
Meanwhile, legal experts told the Post that Zimmerman has undermined his own credibility and cause by deceiving the judge about his finances during an April bond hearing. That alleged deception led to perjury charges against Zimmerman's wife, Shellie. She has pleaded not guilty.
Judge Lester, who will also decide the self-defense claim, said Zimmerman 'flaunted the system' by making misleading statements about how much money the couple had raised through online contributions from supporters. Lester revoked Zimmerman's initial $150,000 bond and had him returned to jail, allowing him to be released later on the higher $1 million figure with additional restrictions.
In his first TV interview since killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman told Fox News' Sean Hannity that he did not regret anything that happened that night.
'I feel like it was all God's plan,' he told the conservative talk show host.
Martin's father, Tracy Martin, told the Associated Press in response: 'We must worship a different God. There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son.'