By Mike Schneider
ORLANDO, Florida –A judge on Monday denied prosecutors’ request for a gag order in the trial of a neighborhood watch leader charged with killing a black teen, in a case which drew national attention over questions of race and self-defense.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said in an order that there was no need for a gag order at this time to ensure a fair trial for George Zimmerman.
The 29-year-old Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin last February.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and claims the shooting was self-defense under the state’s ”stand your ground” law. Zimmerman and Martin got into an altercation inside a gated community in Florida.
Prosecutors had asked for the gag order, claiming a website and social media used by Zimmerman’s attorney could influence potential jurors in the racially charged case.
The judge also set scheduling dates ahead of next June’s trial in a separate order. Any ”stand your ground” hearing must be held before April 26 and all pretrial motions must be filed by early May, she said.
A defendant who invokes Florida’s “stand your ground” law can have a nonjury hearing in front of a judge before going to trial. If the judge finds the self-defense argument valid, the judge can dismiss the charges against the defendant.
Nelson warned the attorneys that an inability to meet pretrial deadlines wouldn’t be a reason to postpone trial.