Today George Zimmerman's lawyers officially announced that he will exercise his right to a pretrial hearing on his claim that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense:
Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a "Stand Your Ground" hearing.
In the case against George Zimmerman, a "Stand Your Ground" hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the "Stand Your Ground" hearing….
Preparing for the "Stand Your Ground" hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for a trial. It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts, and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing. We anticipate this will still take several months.
The Florida Supreme Court has said such hearings are necessary because the state's self-defense law promises "immunity from criminal prosecution" for people who use force appropriately. Zimmerman can avoid a trial if he convinces a judge, "by a preponderance of the evidence," that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent Martin from killing or seriously injuring him. In other words, the judge has to conclude that Zimmerman's account—that Martin knocked him down with a punch to the face, repeatedly smacked his head against a concrete sidewalk, and had him pinned to the ground, his hand moving toward Zimmerman's gun, when Zimmerman fired—is more likely than not to be true. If Zimmerman has that much evidence in his favor (a big if), it follows that prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his use of force was not justified—the standard that would apply in a trial. The upshot is that, assuming everyone applies the rules correctly, the self-defense hearing will not change the outcome of this case, although it could spare Zimmerman the burden of a trial.