News Column

Sentinel Fights Attempt to Seal Zimmerman, Trayvon Records

Oct. 17, 2012

Rene Stutzman

The Orlando Sentinel has joined more than a dozen other news organizations, fighting an attempt by prosecutors in the George Zimmerman murder case to seal defense subpoenas and other records.

Also fighting that battle are The New York Times, CBS News, NBCUniversal, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Tampa Bay Times, Associated Press, USA Today, The Miami Herald and others.

Attorneys will be in court in Sanford Friday, making their case to Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson.

Lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has asked the judge to seal all future defense subpoenas and review them behind closed doors. He's also asked her to do the same for whatever evidence they produce.

But media lawyers say that's not in accord with Florida's open records law and long history of holding court hearings in the open.

The issue at hand is whether the judge should allow defense attorneys to subpoena Trayvon Martin's school records.

O'Mara has sent subpoenas to the teenager's former high schools and middle school, as well as Miami-Dade public school headquarters, asking for those records.

They're expected to show that the 17-year-old was suspended from school at the time of his death and had been suspended earlier because of discipline problems. Police say he was serving a 10-day suspension at the time of his death because authorities found him with an empty marijuana baggie.

Friday's hearing will also cover other matters, for example, whether the state is entitled to Zimmerman's medical records from the day after the shooting.

Zimmerman is the 29-year-old Neighborhood Watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Feb. 26 in Sanford after calling the police and describing him as suspicious. The defendant says he acted in self-defense after the teenager attacked him.



Source: (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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