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Vocapedia > USA > Law, Justice


First court appearance

(≠ arraignment)




initial court appearance








make his/her first court appearance












appear in court








Zimmerman Charged, Appears in Court

George Zimmerman spends night in jail,

faces second degree murder charges.

Video    ABC News    13 April 2012



















during the proceedings








a four-page charging affidavit filed in court










gray prison jumpsuit








be shackled










Corpus of news articles


Law, Justice > USA


First court appearance ( ≠ arraignment)




A Day in Court

and a New Lawyer for Defendant

in Martin Case


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


SANFORD, Fla. — A tall, lanky red-headed lawyer named Mark O’Mara appeared in court here on Thursday, standing next to his newest client, George Zimmerman, one of the most recognizable defendants in the country but a man he had met for the first time only the night before at the county jail.

Mr. Zimmerman, 28, has become known to millions as the neighborhood watch organizer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, six weeks ago, but who was initially not charged with any crime — unleashing a nationwide protest.

Mr. O’Mara, a New Yorker by birth and a criminal defense lawyer for nearly three decades, is perhaps best known in central Florida as a low-key legal analyst on television who frequently commented on the trial last year of Casey Anthony, who was accused — and acquitted — of killing her young daughter.

It was Mr. Zimmerman’s first moment in court, and he looked wide-eyed and grim in a one-piece blue-gray prison uniform, a couple of day’s growth on his face. Mr. O’Mara said that his client would plead not guilty and that he would try to get him out of jail within the next couple of weeks. Until then, Mr. Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder on Wednesday, is being held in protective custody. A conviction could result in a prison term of 25 years to life.

After seeing his client on Thursday, Mr. O’Mara said in an interview that Mr. Zimmerman was distraught. “He is stressed and tired after long weeks of not being able to go out in public,” Mr. O’Mara, 56, said. “In the best of circumstances, he was dealing with the reality that he caused the death of somebody, and that weighs on you.”

Saying his client has no money, Mr. O’Mara said that he was not charging Mr. Zimmerman and that he hoped to secure a low bond.

Mr. Zimmerman and his family have maintained that he was trailing Mr. Martin because the young man appeared suspicious. Mr. Martin then disappeared from view, only to re-emerge, confront him and assault him, they say. In the fight, they contend, he shot Mr. Martin in self-defense. Florida’s expansive self-defense law, Stand Your Ground, was cited initially as a reason why no charges were brought.

In a four-page charging affidavit filed in court on Thursday, prosecutors added little to the known facts in the case. But the affidavit contradicted the Zimmerman family account in at least one crucial respect.

“Martin attempted to run home,” it said, “but was followed by Zimmerman who didn’t want the person he falsely assumed was going to commit a crime to get away before the police arrived.”

“Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued,” it stated. It also asserted that Mr. Zimmerman “profiled” Mr. Martin.

Mr. O’Mara said self-defense cases were not new to him; he said that he had handled dozens, but that none had gone to trial as Stand Your Ground cases. He has also tried high-profile death-penalty cases.

He said that self-defense would probably be a “facet” of Mr. Zimmerman’s defense. Last month, Mr. O’Mara told a local television station that Mr. Martin’s shooting could be legally justified under the law, which allows people to use deadly force if they feel endangered. “Other people call it the license to murder statute because it doesn’t require actions to avoid the confrontation,” Mr. O’Mara said in the appearance.

He was critical of the law on Wednesday, however, saying it has “some troublesome portions to it.” But, he added, “right now it’s the law of Florida and that will have an impact on this case.”

Mr. O’Mara, who grew up in Rosedale, Queens, the son of a battalion chief in the New York City Fire Department, came to this case suddenly, after another well-known lawyer, Mark NeJame, referred him and four other lawyers. Mr. NeJame, who said Mr. Zimmerman had consented to his speaking, declined a March 13 request by Mr. Zimmerman to take his case because it would have required too much time away from his family.

On Tuesday, Mr. Zimmerman’s original two lawyers held a news conference to resign, saying that they could not get in touch with Mr. Zimmerman and that he was acting “erratic.” Mr. NeJame got a call a day later from a close family friend of the Zimmermans. He gave the friend a list of the five lawyers; they chose Mr. O’Mara.

“I thought Mark had strong attributes like being compassionate, extremely smart, media savvy and very professional,” Mr. NeJame said. “Mark has a measured approach and by bringing him in, it would help keep unbridled passions contained.”

The Martin family expressed relief on Thursday over the charges. Exhausted by the ordeal, Mr. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she had misspoken on a news program earlier in the day when she used the word “accident” to describe the shooting. It was not the shooting that was the accident, she said; it was the encounter between Mr. Martin and Mr. Zimmerman. “The accident came when Zimmerman exited his vehicle and they met,” she said.

Asked whether he would use her words in court, Mr. O’Mara displayed his flair for discretion. “They went through a horrible tragedy,” he said. “They lost their son. We’re not going to be talking about using words against the mother of a deceased child.”


Joseph Freeman contributed reporting

from Sanford, Fla.,

and Kitty Bennett contributed research

from St. Petersburg, Fla.

A Day in Court and a New Lawyer for Defendant in Martin Case,






Suspect in Martin Case

to Appear in Court


April 12, 2012
The New York Times


SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer arrested on murder charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Zimmerman, 28, was charged by a special prosecutor on Wednesday evening with second-degree murder. He is likely to appear with a new lawyer, Mark M. O’Mara, a well-known criminal lawyer, but it is not clear if a judge will set bail, or if Mr. Zimmerman will formally enter a plea.

Mr. O’Mara said in a brief interview on Wednesday night that when the time comes his client would plead not guilty.

Mr. O’Mara also said he hoped that the judge would take up a bond motion at Thursday’s hearing — which is expected to be brief — but that he expected that the issue of bail might have to wait for a more extensive hearing in the near future.

The charges, which Mr. Martin’s family praised but called overdue, opened a new chapter in a case that set off a searing national discussion of racial profiling, Florida’s expansive self-defense law and the fairness of the criminal justice system.

The charges against Mr. Zimmerman were announced by Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after the local state attorney stepped aside in the wake of criticism that the case had been moving too slowly. Ms. Corey took pains to praise the local law enforcement officials at a news conference in Jacksonville, and pledged to pursue justice for the family of Mr. Martin, who was killed in a gated community here six weeks ago.

Asked about the racial overtones of the case — Mr. Martin, who was black, was shot and killed by Mr. Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was not immediately arrested by the local police — Ms. Corey said that law enforcement officials were committed to justice for all, regardless of race, gender or background.

“We only know one category as prosecutors, and that’s a ‘V,’ ” Ms. Corey said. “It’s not a ‘B,’ it’s not a ‘W,’ it’s not an ‘H.’ It’s ‘V,’ for victim. That’s who we work tirelessly for. And that’s all we know, is justice for our victims.”

If convicted of second-degree murder, Mr. Zimmerman, 28, could face life in prison. It is the toughest charge he could have faced. First-degree murder would have required a finding of premeditation and a grand jury review, which Ms. Corey decided against this week.

Mr. Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, praised the decision to arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman at an emotional news conference in Washington, where they had been meeting with their lawyers and supporters. “We simply wanted an arrest,” Ms. Fulton said. “We wanted nothing more and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it. And I say, ‘Thank you, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus.’ ”

Mr. Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County Jail around 8:25 p.m. and stepped out of a black S.U.V. in the custody of law enforcement agents.

The killing of Trayvon Martin incited outrage and protest marches across the country. He was shot on the evening of Feb. 26 as he returned from buying Skittles and iced tea at a 7-Eleven, bound for the home in a gated community in Sanford, a small city just north of Orlando, where he and his father were guests.

Mr. Zimmerman, the founder of the local neighborhood watch, called 911 that evening to report that Mr. Martin looked like “a real suspicious guy.” Some questioned whether Mr. Martin attracted Mr. Zimmerman’s attention simply because he was black. Others were outraged by the slow reaction of the local police and prosecutors, who did not immediately arrest and charge Mr. Zimmerman, saying that Florida’s self-defense law could make it difficult to prove a criminal case against him.

President Obama weighed in on the case at one point, saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” After television commentators suggested that Mr. Martin might have looked suspicious because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, people around the country began donning them in solidarity. LeBron James and other members of the Miami Heat basketball team posed in them for a photograph they posted on Twitter. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, even wore one on the floor of the House, saying “Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum.”

The case drew attention to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which was enacted seven years ago after lobbying by the National Rifle Association, over the objections of many law enforcement officials. The law gives the benefit of the doubt to people who claim self-defense, even if they are not in their homes; it says that people who feel that they are in danger do not need to retreat, even if it would seem reasonable to do so.

In this case, Mr. Zimmerman, who had founded a neighborhood watch over the summer after a string of burglaries in the area, saw Mr. Martin, began following him and called 911, telling the dispatcher that he appeared “suspicious.”

The dispatcher asked if Mr. Zimmerman was following him. “Yeah,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

“O.K., we don’t need you to do that,” the dispatcher said. Mr. Zimmerman said: “O.K.”

The case will probably hinge on what happened next.

A lawyer for Mr. Martin’s parents, Benjamin Crump, has said that Mr. Martin was speaking on his cellphone at the time with his girlfriend, and told her that he was being followed. Mr. Crump said that the girl heard him being asked what he was doing before the line went dead.

Mr. Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, gave a different account: he has said that his son had lost sight of Mr. Martin, who then appeared from behind and challenged him.

Witnesses then told 911 that they saw two men fighting. Then Mr. Martin was shot in the chest and killed.

The Sanford police came under heavy criticism when they did not arrest Mr. Zimmerman, saying that they had no evidence to dispute his claim of self-defense. The police chief, Bill Lee, eventually stepped down from his post. The state appointed the special prosecutor. And the Justice Department announced that it would open a federal civil rights investigation.

Ms. Corey, the special state prosecutor who announced the charges, said that if Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law in his defense, and prosecutors do not believe the shooting was justified, they will challenge the claim.

“This case is just like many of the shooting deaths we’ve had in our circuit,” she said. “If Stand Your Ground becomes an issue, we fight it if we believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Mr. Zimmerman changed his lawyers this week, and his old legal team held an odd news conference on Tuesday to say that they were withdrawing from the case and had not heard from him since the weekend.

One of Mr. Zimmerman’s former lawyers, Craig A. Sonner, said after the murder charge was announced that he would use the Stand Your Ground law as a defense if he were still representing Mr. Zimmerman.

Mr. Sonner said that although he had not seen evidence in the case first hand, he believed that “when all the evidence arrives in its totality, and all the circumstances are viewed in their totality, everything will show, I believe, that George Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.”

As she announced the charge, Ms. Corey, the prosecutor, praised Mr. Martin’s “sweet parents.” But she stressed that the decision to charge was made based on the law, not on pressure. “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” she said. “We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the State of Florida.”



Serge F. Kovaleski reported from Sanford,

Lizette Alvarez from Jacksonville,

and Michael Cooper from New York.

Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting

from Washington and Timothy Williams from New York.

Jack Styczynski contributed research.

Suspect in Martin Case to Appear in Court,
NYT, 12.4.2012,










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