George Zimmerman, the man who shot a black teenager to death
nearly half a year ago in Florida will seek to have murder charges
dismissed under the state's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law,
according to his attorney on Thursday.
Zimmerman, a member of a neighbourhood watch who shot to death the unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February, said he did so in self-defence.
Attorney Mark O'Mara said on Zimmerman's defence website that a "Stand Your Ground" hearing will be convened in the coming months to consider Zimmerman's plea under the state law, which gives Florida citizens broad rights to defend themselves if they perceive an imminent threat of injury or death.
"The primary focus of a 'Stand Your Ground' hearing is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed that his use of his weapon was necessary to prevent great bodily harm to himself at the hands of Trayvon Martin," O'Mara wrote on the website.
The hearing would be presided over by Florida's Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, and would not involve a jury. If the judge sides with Zimmerman, not only would the criminal charges be dismissed, but Zimmerman would also be immune to any civil charges stemming from the shooting, according to O'Mara.
If the judge does not agree with Zimmerman's claims, then a full trial would ensue, according to The Miami Herald.
If convicted of second-degree murder, which is unplanned and unpremeditated, Zimmerman could face a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
The case prompted nationwide protests after Sanford, Florida police failed to detain Zimmerman after the slaying of Martin. The teenager was visiting in the neighbourhood and was carrying a bag of skittles candy from a local store on his way home when the killing occurred.
Zimmerman, who is white, was a neighborhood security patrol volunteer who was carrying a legal weapon. He reportedly used a racial epithet in a recorded call to police.
Nationwide protests pressured local officials to finally arrest Zimmerman in April.
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