Judge denies gag order in Zimmerman case

2012-10-30 14:10
A demonstrator holds up a sign during a rally for Trayvon Martin in New York. (File, AP)

A demonstrator holds up a sign during a rally for Trayvon Martin in New York. (File, AP)

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Orlando — A judge on Monday denied prosecutors' request for a gag order in the trial of a neighbourhood watch leader charged with killing a black teen, in a case which drew national attention over questions of race and self-defence.

Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said in an order that there was no need for a gag order at this time to ensure a fair trial for George Zimmerman.

The 29-year-old Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin last February.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and claims the shooting was self-defence under the state's "stand your ground" law. Zimmerman and Martin got into an altercation inside a gated community in Florida.

Prosecutors had asked for the gag order, claiming a website and social media used by Zimmerman's attorney could influence potential jurors in the racially charged case.

The judge also set scheduling dates ahead of next June's trial in a separate order. Any "stand your ground" hearing must be held before 26 April and all pre-trial motions must be filed by early May, she said.

A defendant who invokes Florida's "stand your ground" law can have a nonjury hearing in front of a judge before going to trial. If the judge finds the self-defence argument valid, the judge can dismiss the charges against the defendant.

Nelson warned the attorneys that an inability to meet pre-trial deadlines wouldn't be a reason to postpone trial.

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