Florida prosecutor opposes delay in Trayvon Martin killer trial

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 01, 2013 6:47 PM
Florida prosecutor opposes delay in Trayvon Martin killer trial

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida prosecutor signaled his opposition on Friday to an attempt by George Zimmerman to delay his June trial for the murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, whom he shot and killed a year ago this month.

A judge is expected to hear a delay motion on Tuesday filed by Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, who says he needs another six months to raise money and prepare for the racially-charged trial.

Zimmerman, who maintains he shot Martin in self-defense during a struggle, could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years to life if convicted of second-degree murder.

In a response to the request for a continuance, filed in Seminole County court on Friday, Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda signaled strong opposition to any delay, accusing O'Mara of spending too much time on media interviews and not enough on interviewing witnesses or examining evidence.

"The state will not tell defense counsel how to do their job, but should not be blamed because it is taking so long" to prepare for trial, de la Rionda wrote.

Zimmerman, who is out of jail on a $1 million bond, is living in hiding in central Florida pending his trial. At the time of the shooting, he was a volunteer neighborhood watch captain in a gated community where Martin was staying with his father.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled Martin as the 17-year-old walked back to the townhome where he was staying, then pursued, confronted and killed him.

Zimmerman is expected to claim self defense under Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, which makes it difficult to prosecute anyone who uses deadly force because they fear their life is in danger. He claims Martin attacked him and repeatedly slammed his head into the ground before he shot him.

O'Mara, in his motion, accused prosecutors of taking a "formalistic approach" to the release of state evidence which he wrote was legal but requires "a great deal more vigilance by the defense, and carries with it inherent delays."

De la Rionda countered that O'Mara in essence wanted prosecutors to provide a "roadmap of what the evidence shows and to connect the dots," something the state would not do.

De la Rionda also argued that news reports suggest the depletion of Zimmerman's defense fund might be behind the motion to delay. O'Mara told reporters on Wednesday that the fund, which has gone through almost $314,000 since May, held a balance of under $5,000.

But within 24 hours of his public complaint about dwindling cash reserves, the fund reported that it had raised more than $5,200 from 160 individual donors.

"The state understands, based on recent media reports and interviews by defense counsel, that they are almost out of money and in desperate need of an infusion of money. Perhaps this is the real reason why there have been so many delays and why defendant is again moving to continue the trial," de la Ronda wrote.

(Editing by Tom Brown, Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay)