Zimmerman lawyer pursuing traditional self-defense

Attorney says Zimmerman couldn’t retreat from beating

By Kyle Hightower
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Florida (AP) — The attorney for the former neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager said Monday he believes that the facts that will be argued in the case fall more under traditional self-defense.

Mark O’Mara, who is defending George Zimmerman against a second-degree murder charge in the fatal February shooting of Trayvon Martin, said looking at the case through traditional self-defense circumstances is appropriate because the facts suggest his client couldn’t retreat from a beating he was receiving from Martin.
Martin’s Feb. 26 death in a gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford first drew national attention on March 8, the day his relatives held a news conference to lament that Zimmerman hadn’t been arrested.

Zimmerman’s attorneys said last week that they would use Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force — rather than retreat — if they believe their lives are in danger.

“The facts don’t seem to support a ‘stand your ground’ defense,” O’Mara said.

Still, he said Monday that the defense team will try to get the case dismissed during a ‘stand your ground’ hearing.

“My concern with even calling it a ‘stand your ground’ hearing is we need to be more realistic,” O’Mara said. “I’ve said from Day 1 we need to wait until all the evidence comes out.”
O’Mara said he thinks people have a perception about the law that isn’t accurate.

“People look at ‘stand your ground’ and immediately think somebody’s standing there with deadly force — be it a gun or a weapon — and having the opportunity to back up but not having the need to under the statute,” he said. “I think the evidence in this case suggests that my client was reacting to having his nose broken and reacted to that by screaming out for help.

“He wasn’t in position where I think there was any suggestion where he could retreat, which he is allowed to do under the statute.”

If a judge were to side with Zimmerman in a pretrial hearing under the state’s self-defense statute, the murder charge would be dismissed immediately. O’Mara said that he would not have to invoke any part of the “stand your ground” statute under the strategy he plans to use.

“I think the facts seem to support that though we have a stand-your-ground immunity hearing, what this really is, is a simple, self-defense immunity hearing,” the defense attorney said.
University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave said O’Mara’s shift may signal that he thinks his case for self-defense is solid even without the special provisions afforded by “stand your ground.”

“’Stand your ground’ makes it easier to prevail under self-defense theory than the law that existed beforehand,” Lave said. “I think what he’s saying is, his case is so strong that he doesn’t need ‘stand your ground.’”

Before O’ Mara can address the ‘stand your ground’ hearing, he is filing an appeal this week of trial Judge Kenneth Lester’s recent decision to stay on the case.

O’Mara said it could take several weeks for the Fifth District Court of Appeals to rule.

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