Zimmerman shoots for self-defence

2012-08-09 21:01
George Zimmerman will try to have the murder charge dismissed under Florida's "stand your ground" self-defence law. (AP)

George Zimmerman will try to have the murder charge dismissed under Florida's "stand your ground" self-defence law. (AP)

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Miami - The US man charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen that led to national protests will try to have the murder charge dismissed under Florida's "stand your ground" self-defence law, his attorney said on Thursday.

George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after a confrontation in Zimmerman's gated community, where Martin was visiting. The case drew anger because Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks after the shooting.

A statement posted on Zimmerman's official defence website says evidence released by prosecutors shows "clear support for a strong claim of self-defence".

A hearing on the self-defence claim likely won't take place for several months. 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".

Under the law, the judge can dismiss the charges if Zimmerman conclusively shows he fatally shot Martin because he "reasonably believed" he might be killed or suffer "great bodily harm" at the hands of the unarmed teenager. The law also says a person has no duty to retreat in the face of such a threat.


Martin's parents have contended 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, who is free on $1m bail, faces a possible life prison sentence if convicted of second-degree murder.

If his "stand your ground" claim succeeds, however, the criminal charge would be dismissed and Zimmerman could not be held liable in any civil action such as a wrongful death lawsuit. Prosecutors would likely appeal a successful self-defence claim.

A spokesperson for special prosecutor Angela Corey declined comment. An attorney for Martin's parents did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
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