George Zimmerman’s first court appearance, before a judge in Seminole County, Florida, marks the beginning of a judicial process that could take months.
Zimmerman, who is accused of second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, entered the courtroom Thursday with his lawyer, Mark O’Mara. He was wearing a one-piece gray jumpsuit, and spoke only two words: “yes, sir” in response to a basic question from the judge, Mark Kerr, reading to Zimmerman — and into the court record — the charges against him and asking if he remembered that he has the right to remain silent.
Also today, a probable cause affidavit was filed by the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, in which it is alleged that Zimmerman “profiled” Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, believing that the teen was not supposed to be in the gated community where Zimmerman and his wife rented a home, and where Martin and his father were visiting his father Tracy Martin’s fiancée.
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THE TRAYVON MARTIN CASE:
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Kerr informed the defendant that he had reviewed the affidavit submitted by the prosecutors, and found that there is sufficient probable cause to proceed with the case, and informed the court that “all other matters will be handled by the circuit court.”
O’Mara did not ask for a bond hearing, which he was entitled to do at the first hearing, and the judge set a date for Zimmerman’s arraignment of May 29th.
Finding a judge
Kerr was the judge on duty for Zimmerman’s first appearance, but he will not be the judge for Zimmerman’s trial. Seminole District Curt Judge Jessica J. Recksiedler will be the trial judge in the case, including presiding over the May 29th arraignment, Recksiedler earned her law degree from Stetson University and is a former trial lawyer.
It is at the May 29th arraignment hearing that he would officially enter a plea, according to Miami criminal defense attorney Tony Moss. Zimmerman’s lawyer can request the initial “discovery” — meaning the products of the state attorney’s investigation that will be used against his client. In a case where the defendant was arrested immediately after the alleged crime, the discovery process can often take weeks or months, Moss says, but in this case there has been substantial investigation (there was no initial arrest, and Zimmerman was first taken into custody Wednesday), so Zimmerman’s lawyers may be able to get substantial information from the state attorney relatively quickly.
Bail or no bail?
A any time between now and May 29th, Zimmerman’s lawyer can request a bond hearing, at which his attorney would have the burden of proving that he should be released on bond/ bail, and the judge would decide whether to grant it, and if so, at what amount.
Stand your ground, case dismissed?
Zimmerman’s attorneys can at any time file a motion to dismiss the case based on the “stand your ground” law, which makes someone who acts lawfully under it immune from criminal prosecution or civil action. If a judge denies the motion to dismiss, the case will proceed to trial.
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