SANFORD – Who gets to see the evidence against George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer awaiting trial on a charge of second-degree murder? Today, that will likely become a point of dispute between lawyers in the case and the most powerful media companies in the country.
Defense attorneyMark O’Marahas said he expects to get his first look at the evidence today. He has also warned that he will likely file paperwork, asking the judge to keep key elements from everyone else.
f does, lawyers for the Orlando Sentinel, The New York Times, NBC, CBS, CNN and more than a half dozen other news organizations are expected to weigh in and try to prevent that.
They earlier jumped into the case and convinced Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to unseal the court file, a different and much more limited set of information.
What’s at stake now is all the evidence police and prosecutors have compiled against Zimmerman, the 28-year-old Sanford man charged with killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, black 17-year-old in what has become one of the most racially-charged criminal cases in the country.
Zimmerman shot Trayvon Feb. 26 as the teenager walked to the home he was visiting in a gated community in Sanford where Zimmerman lived.
The defendant told police he fired his gun in self-defense after Trayvon pinned him to the ground and began beating him. Trayvon’s father, family lawyers and critics say Zimmerman is guilty of racial profiling and murder.
Normally, when a Florida prosecutor turns over evidence to a defense attorney, it becomes a public record, meaning the prosecutor has to give it to anyone who asks for it.
In major cases, reporters then pour over it and write about what they find.
In this case, however, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey’s office has made it clear that the evidence will not immediately be available to the public.
State law gives her a “reasonable” amount of time to respond to public record requests.
Her lead trial attorney in the case, Bernie de la Rionda, has also told the judge that, like O’Mara, he doesn’t want witness names made public either.
De la Rionda also may file paperwork, asking the judge to keep some or all of the evidence secret.
The judge has not signaled what he will do, but at a hearing April 27, he made clear he takes seriously his job of balancing Zimmerman’s right to a fair trial with the public’s right to know.
In preparing for that hearing, Rachel Fugate, the Sentinel’s attorney, wrote, “There is no reason to believe that the release of material now will affect the fairness of the trial.”