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2 Zimmerman bombshells: no 'stand your ground' and witness problem

The man accused of shooting Trayvon Martin a year ago in Sanford has apparently changed his criminal defense strategy. Attorneys for the 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer indicated this week that they no longer plan to pursue a defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which has created such controversy. Instead of requesting a hearing on the matter as expected, the lawyers instead hinted that he may plead traditional self-defense instead.

Another surprising development in the case was also revealed this week. A key witness in the prosecution's homicide case, Martin's girlfriend, was not where she said she was on the night of the shooting. One of the most important pieces of evidence in the case was that Martin, just before the incident, had been talking to his girlfriend on the phone because she was in the hospital.

"In fact, she lied," said one of Zimmerman's attorneys.

According to Zimmerman, 17-year-old Martin -- perhaps in response t the 911 call Zimmerman had just made to Sanford police -- punched Zimmerman, breaking his nose, and then proceeded to pound his head into the sidewalk, which led to Zimmerman shooting the boy a few minutes after that call.

No one witnessed the confrontation. Martin's girlfriend, however, has said in sworn testimony that she heard the beginning of the incident over the phone from her hospital room. She said Martin had told her he was scared because a stranger was following him. She said she heard Martin ask the stranger why, and that a man had answered, "What are you doing here?" before the phone went dead. As it turns out, she was not in the hospital that night.

The judge did not require Zimmerman's lawyers to make a firm choice between traditional self-defense and "stand your ground," although she did cancel an April pre-trial hearing set to consider the "stand your ground" defense.

Interestingly, "stand your ground" was actually meant to broaden the concept of self-defense, not restrict it. Traditionally, a self-defense homicide claim requires a showing that the defendant was both in reasonable fear of his life or serious injury and that retreat was not a sensible option. The "stand your ground" law takes away that duty to retreat.

"Our real focus is getting ready for the trial," he said. With fewer than 100 days until the June 10 start date, he added, "We have precious little time."

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Lawyer: State's main witness in George Zimmerman murder case lied," Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner, March 5, 2013

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