SANFORD — A judge ruled Friday that attorneys for a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer can inspect the school records and social media postings of the unarmed teenager he is accused of murdering.
Judge Debra S. Nelson said that defendant George Zimmerman’s attorneys need to know whether Tray-von Martin’s school records and social media postings give any evidence that he had violent tendencies.
The 29-year-old Zimmerman fatally shot the 17-year-old Miami Gardens resident in February. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he shot Trayvon in self-defense. He was present Friday, his first appearance in public since his July bond hearing.
He and his wife, Shellie, remain in hiding in Seminole County because of safety concerns.
The judge said she would review Zimmerman’s medical records to see if they should be turned over to prosecutors. She set another hearing for Friday, Oct. 26.
She will also take up an emergency motion filed Oct. 18 by defense attorney Mark O’Mara that asks the court to grant depositions of several Sanford police officers, including former Chief Bill Lee.
In Nelson’s first full hearing since taking over the case in late August, she held attorneys from both sides to short arguments before conveying her rulings. She warned them about bickering with each other.
In regard to the emergency motion, O’Mara said in the filing that he learned during a recent deposition of police Sgt. Joseph Santiago that investigators held several meetings in the weeks after the shooting and reached a consensus that Zimmerman should not be charged with a crime.
O’Mara contends that information was learned only through a question during the deposition of Santiago and that the state never disclosed the existence of the meetings or what was discussed during them.
“If all those witnesses had a similar opinion, I’m very concerned of what the basis for the prosecution is,” O’Mara said. “We certainly now have a lot more to look into. I didn’t know we’d be going down this path. Now it’s been opened up to us, we’re going to investigate it to wherever it leads us.”
The judge has scheduled Zimmerman’s trial for next June. A hearing on Zimmerman’s self-defense claim has not been scheduled, though O’Mara said that it could be in April or May.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Trayvon’s parents, said they didn’t think his social media activity before the shooting was valid, but they didn’t have any fear of its being revealed.
“Trayvon Martin died because George Zimmerman profiled him as a criminal-minded young punk under the guise of protecting his neighborhood,” Crump said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Now Trayvon Martin is being profiled again as a MMA-loving, violent thug under the guise of pursuing justice.
This has to stop. Profiling, like racism and sexism, has no place in the criminal justice system.”