George Zimmerman Waives “Stand Your Ground” Hearing

Filed under: Criminal Law by Contributor @ May 7, 2013

On April 30, George Zimmerman waived his right to a pretrial “stand your ground” hearing. Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 and claims that it was done in self-defense. This case has been in the national spotlight for months, and Zimmerman waived this hearing as a tactical decision in order to have his fate decided by a jury of his peers instead of a judge.

Florida, like many other states including Pennsylvania, has a “stand your ground” law. This law allows a person to use deadly force against an attacker if they or someone else are in danger of being killed or seriously harmed, are not engaged in unlawful activity, and are attacked in a place that the defender is lawfully allowed to be. States without a “stand your ground” law require that a person “retreat to the wall” before using deadly force against an assailant or have a “castle doctrine” exception that allows the use of deadly force in a person’s home. Pennsylvania has a form of the castle doctrine.

Usually in cases involving “stand your ground” laws, a pretrial immunity hearing will be held in which the judge determines if “stand your ground” applies. If the judge rules that it does apply, then the defendant is immune from both criminal and civil trials. Zimmerman, however, waived this pretrial hearing and instead intends to raise the issue at trial. The strategy behind this is that if a judge were to rule against him at the pretrial immunity hearing, the jury would know about this and would be less likely to return a verdict in his favor when he raises a “stand your ground” defense, or even the issue of self-defense. He wants the jury to hear the case first without their judgment becoming tainted by the judge’s ruling. As Mark O’Mara, one of Zimmerman’s lawyers, states, “George wants this case before a jury of his peers. That’s where he’s going to get acquitted.” The trial is scheduled to begin on June 10.

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