Prosecutors seek gag order in Trayvon Martin murder case

SANFORD, Florida Fri Oct 19, 2012 5:45pm EDT

1 of 4. George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, looks on during his hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Florida on October 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/POOL

Related Topics

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - Prosecutors want a Florida judge to impose a gag order on the Trayvon Martin murder case, saying lawyers for the man charged with murdering the unarmed black teenager threaten to taint the jury pool by trying the case "in the media and not in the courtroom."

Judge Debra Nelson scheduled a hearing next week on the motion which was filed by Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda in Seminole County Circuit Court.

The motion came just before George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of Martin on February 26, appeared in court on Friday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.

"This case has continued to have an inordinate amount of media coverage," de la Rionda said in his motion.

"Unless defense counsel stops talking to the media about the case, in person or by use of the defendant's website, it will be more difficult to find jurors who have not been influenced by media accounts of the case," he said.

It is the second time de la Rionda has requested a gag order in the case, which grabbed the media spotlight and triggered public outrage because police in the central Florida town of Sanford initially declined to arrest Zimmerman.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and a trial date has been set for June 10.

"This case should be tried in the courtroom and not in the media," de la Rionda said in his new motion. He noted that Zimmerman's lead attorney, Mark O'Mara, had taken to national television as well as the Internet and social media sites including Facebook and Twitter to comment on the case.

In Friday's hearing, Nelson denied an attempt by prosecutors to seal social media records in the case, including the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Martin and a teenage girl who he was speaking to on his cellphone just before he was killed.

"This is an open court. This is a public case. The court has no intention of closing this court," Nelson said.

She also allowed the defense to subpoena Martin's school records, but required that they be kept confidential as required by law.

Prosecutors said in court filings that Zimmerman's lawyers were on a "fishing expedition" for background information about Martin that could potentially be used "to influence public perception or otherwise curry favor with potential jurors."

Nelson also ruled that the prosecution could obtain Zimmerman's entire medical file from his local doctor - once the judge has reviewed the file to determine whether any specific records should be withheld.

Zimmerman's attorney had sought to block the prosecution request, citing what he said was his client's right to privacy.

Martin's school records could provide details of any history of disciplinary action.

At the time of his death, the 17-year-old was staying at his father's fiancée's townhome in a gated community in Sanford. He was serving a 10-day suspension from his Miami high school after being caught with a baggie that contained traces of marijuana.

Zimmerman has said he acted in self-defense when he shot Martin, who was walking back from a convenience store to the townhome.

O'Mara has said he would seek to have the murder charge dismissed in a hearing in April or May under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows individuals in fear for their life to use deadly force in self-defense.

(Writing and additional reporting by Tom Brown.; Editing by David Adams and David Brunnstrom)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (17)
Evo1 wrote:
This is so idiotic. If this case hadn’t already been tried in the media in a way that was extremely biased in favor of the prosecution, there wouldn’t even be a case at this point. The initial decision not to prosecute would have stood, and it would all be over. It was only because of the extremely one-sided trying of this case in the media that a special prosecutor was ever even appointed. Now that the truth is finally coming out, that this prosecution is based on no actual evidence of any wrong-doing at all, and that the prosecution is simply trying to tie-up the process with legal dirty tricks, like not cooperating with discovery, they hope to keep the jury pool as it is: already contaminated with lies that support their own position, and not balanced by any truth.

Oct 19, 2012 1:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
V1NR0CK wrote:
What’s idiotic is that an overzealous man with a gun failed to obey a police dispatcher and confronted an unarmed minor. What’s ironic is that Trayvon Martin is the one who actually stood his ground. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the gun. This is not about race or socio-economics. If George Zimmerman didn’t have a gun, I doubt he would have had the bravado to confront Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman was always in the position of power. He was the adult. He was armed. Claiming self defense after you antagonize a situation is ridiculous…

Oct 19, 2012 2:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
bmhay1 wrote:
George Zimmerman Profiled, Purseued, Shot and killed an unarmed kid that was doing nothing wrong! TM did not beat GZ as he claims, see the evidence! LIFE FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN……………JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON!!!!!

Oct 19, 2012 3:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.