Making his first court appearance Thursday in Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman was told his first formal arraignment will take place on May 29. He is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The 28-year-old Florida man, who wore a gray prison jumpsuit and was shaved down to a stubble, looked straight ahead during the court proceeding. He is represented by his new attorney, Mark O'Mara.
After a national outburst that began shortly after Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman was arrested Wednesday. Some legal experts expected a lesser count of manslaughter and say a prosecutor will face steep hurdles to win a murder conviction, the Associated Press reported. The accused maintains he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense.
The prosecution must prove Zimmerman intentionally went after Martin instead of shooting him in self-defense. The “Stand Your Ground” Florida law will be used in his defense, O’Mara said, which entitles people the right to use deadly force in the face of imminent danger.
"He is concerned about getting a fair trial and a fair presentation," O'Mara said. "He is a client who has a lot of hatred focused on him. I'm hoping the hatred settles down ... he has the right to his own safety and the case being tried before a judge and jury."
O’Mara said he is not taking attorney fees as Zimmerman does not have the money to pay. A bond request was delayed, and Zimmerman will remain in protective custody until they “have a place for him to be safe,” he said.
“[Zimmerman is] facing second-degree murder charges now,” O’Mara said at a press conference following the hearing. “He’s frightened. That would frighten any one of us.”
Zimmerman could face a minimum of 25 years in prison or a maximum of life if convicted.
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