George Zimmerman made his first court appearance in a jailhouse courtroom earlier today. He turned himself in on Wednesday, after being issued an a capias arrest warrant, and has been charged with second degree murder in the slaying of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.
Also on Wednesday, a new defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, officially took on Zimmerman as a client. This came about after his former lawyers, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, announced they weren’t representing him anymore. Sonner and Uhrig made this decision due to their former client’s erratic behavior and the fact he wasn’t returning their calls, reports the Associated Press.
The AP adds that Zimmerman disappeared off the radar once Martin’s fatality became widespread news across the country. “As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life,” Zimmerman wrote on his own website. Attorneys Sonner and Uhrig were concerned for Zimmerman’s mental health due to the fact that talked to the State Attorney’s Office and a Fox News reporter. Generally, defense lawyers advise their clients not to talk to anyone, especially after they’ve talked to a police officer because it could reveal discrepancies in statements.
O’Mara stated that he is not concerned about his client’s mental stability. According to Reuters, Zimmerman’s new attorney shared that his client will plead not guilty, although no plea was issued at today’s initial hearing. You may recognize O’Mara and his role as a television broadcast journalist during the Casey Anthony trial where he commented on the proceedings on a daily basis. He has had approximately 27 years experience as a defense attorney, specializing in self-defense cases, although he has never argued a case involving Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, reports the AP.
Some legal experts predict the case will be thrown out due to this particular self-defense law (a seven-year old piece of legislation). Officially called ‘Justifiable Use of Force’ (Chapter 776), a section of it reads:
However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
The question is, was Zimmerman “justified in the use of deadly force”? This is one side of the story, but a section of the legal affidavit read in court today may suggest he was not justified: “When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him. Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home”. You can read the rest of the affidavit here, courtesy of the AP.