George Zimmerman's lawyers today notified prosecutors that their witness list now includes a who's who of the Sanford Police Department's chain of command at the time of Trayvon Martin's death, including the police chief, major crimes captain, sergeant and case detectives.
It is an unusual defense strategy. Police officers typically testify for the state, explaining how they gathered the evidence that that led to charges.
In this case, it suggests that Zimmerman's attorneys believe the testimony of Sanford officers will help -- not hurt -- their client.
The list has on it a dozen names, including former chief Bill Lee; Bob O'Connor, the major crimes captain who oversaw the investigation; Lt. Randy Smith, the former sergeant who supervised the detectives investigating the case; and lead Investigator Chris Serino.
Zimmerman, 29, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, shot and killed Trayvon, an unarmed 17-year-old, Feb. 26 after Zimmerman called police, describing the teenager as suspicious.
Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after the high school junior attacked him, pinned him to the ground, beat him and tried to take away Zimmerman's handgun.
Sanford police investigated the case for several weeks without making an arrest. Lee and Serino said they were working to gather evidence for a manslaughter charge when they decided to hand the case over to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.
Nine days later, Gov. Rick Scott took the case from Wolfinger by naming a special prosecutor, Angela Corey, the elected state attorney in Jacksonville.
She had Zimmerman arrested April 11 on a charge of second-degree murder.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara on Friday said he was surprised when Sanford police Sgt. Joseph Santiago testified during a deposition last week that after more than two weeks of daily meetings at the police department at which officers agreed there was not enough evidence to charge Zimmerman, Serino signed paperwork that he turned over to Wolfinger, saying he had probable cause to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter.
Santiago is one of the 12 Sanford police officers on today's new witness list.
Also today, the Orlando Sentinel filed paperwork, joining nearly a dozen other news organizations in the fight against a gag order in the case. Prosecutors have asked Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to ban all attorneys and law enforcement officers from commenting.
They contend defense attorney Mark O'Mara is using a web page, national news appearances, Facebook and Twitter to try to influence potential jurors.
O'Mara contends he's done nothing wrong and has abided by Florida Bar rules.
There's a hearing Friday on the matter.
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