George Zimmerman to Skip 'Stand Your Ground Hearing' That Could End Case

Zimmerman's counsel waives right, raises stakes in second-degree murder trial.

ByABC News
March 5, 2013, 10:36 AM

March 5, 2013— -- George Zimmerman's attorneys stunned court observers today by deciding to skip a "Stand Your Ground" hearing slated for April that might have led to a dismissal of the charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman is entitled to immunity and if he can prove he shot and killed Martin Feb. 26, 2012 self defense. If self defense was determined, all criminal proceedings would have immediately stopped, and Zimmerman would have walked free.

But Zimmerman's legal team also risked the possibility that the judge would reject the motion and the hearing would give prosecutors an opportunity to pick apart Zimmerman's testimony.

The defense left open the likelihood that they could ask for a Stand Your Ground hearing before the June trial, but by waiting until the later date his legal team would have more time to prepare their case.

Zimmerman, 29, faces second degree murder charges for killing Martin. The teenager was shot after Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, told police he thought Martin was acting suspiciously. Zimmerman got out of his car, but he claims that Martin knocked him down and Zimmerman shot him in a struggle over Zimmerman's gun.

During today's hearing, the two sides wrangled over a couple of other pretrial issues.

Zimmerman's defense appeared to question the credibility of a teenage girl, identified only as Witness 8, who claims she was on the phone with Martin just moments before he was shot. Witness 8 is arguably the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Witness 8 told authorities that Martin told her that he was scared of a strange man following him. She also claimed that that after hearing the shooting over Martin's phone, she was hospitalized for trauma, a claim that prosecutors later admitted was false.

The defense wanted Judge Debra Nelson to question prosecutors about how they learned that this claim was not true, but Nelson refused. Defense attorney Donald West also asked the court for more information about the account she gave attorneys.

According to records obtained by ABC News she was on the phone with Martin as his confrontation with Zimmerman began.

Zimmerman's defense also sought any criminal history police may have on Martin as well as his social media history.

In an earlier hearing the judge ruled that Zimmerman's defense could subpoena Martin's social media history but the undertaking is time consuming and expensive. Authorities agreed to hand over the documents to the judge so that she could review them and determine if the defense should have them.

"It's time and money to get some of the information here and we are running out of both," said West.