SANFORD, Fla. — The credibility of Trayvon Martin’s shooter could be an issue at trial after a judge said that George Zimmerman and his wife lied to the court about their finances to obtain a bond, legal experts say.
That’s because the case hinges on jurors believing his account of what happened the night the 19-year-old was killed.
The questioning of Zimmerman’s truthfulness by the judge on Friday could undermine the defendant’s credibility if it is brought up at trial. It also may complicate how his defense presents him as a witness, said Orlando-area attorney Randy McCLean, who is a former prosecutor.
Read full story after the jump“The other key witness, unfortunately is deceased,” McClean said. “Basically, Zimmerman is going to be asking the jury to believe his version of the facts … As the case stands now, his credibility is absolutely critical to the case.”
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder for the February shooting. The neighborhood watch volunteer says he shot Martin in self-defense because the unarmed 17-year-old was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.
Witness accounts of the rainy night Martin was shot are spotty. There is no video of the fight, though photos prosecutors have released showed Zimmerman with wounds to his face and the back of his head.
Zimmerman’s credibility with the judge would be important if O’Mara tries to get a judge without the jury to dismiss the charges based on the law, said Orlando defense attorney David Hill.
“If he was in on something that was not truthfully revealed to the judge, when there is a ‘stand your ground’ hearing, of course you’re going to second-guess him,” Hill said.
Both McClean and Hill said O’Mara would be able to challenge the admissibility of the bond revocation at trial by questioning its relevance.
Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing, and during a bond hearing in April, his wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds available. The hearing also was notable because Zimmerman took the stand and apologized to Martin’s parents.
Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Zimmerman had $135,000 available then. It had been raised from donations through a website he set up and they suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.
Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn’t know how much money had been raised. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set bail at $150,000. The 28-year-old was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash — which is typical — and has since been in hiding.