The judge in the Trayvon Martin case will hear arguments Friday at 1:30 p.m. about whether lawyers should be barred from talking to witnesses and the media.
Motions from both the prosecutor and defense attorney to Judge Debra Nelson argue that lawyers should be limited in their communications.
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda has asked for a gag order to stop attorneys and law enforcement officials from talking to the media about the facts of the case, evidence and witnesses, as well as their opinions about how the case should be resolved.
Meanwhile, George Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara has filed a motion to bar lawyers from speaking with witnesses before they are deposed.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon on Feb. 26. He told police he shot the 17-year-old in self-defense after the teen repeatedly knocked his head to the ground. Trayvon’s family said Zimmerman racially profiled the unarmed black teen and confronted him as he walked home from a convenience store.
The state argues that O’Mara’s continued comments to the media make it harder to have a fair trial. “It’s going to be impossible to pick a jury,” de la Rionda said last week. “We shouldn’t have a news conference every time there’s a motion.”
Several media companies, including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS News have filed a motion to stop de la Rionda’s gag order. They argue that it is not supported by Florida law and would limit the media’s ability to gather the news.
“The Media Companies publish and broadcast news throughout Florida, and rely upon comment from trial participants as some of their principal sources of news gathering,” according to attorneys for the media companies.
This is de la Rionda ‘s second attempt at a gag order. In April, Judge Kenneth Lester, who was then presiding over the case, denied the first one.
Nelson will also hear why O’Mara wants to keep lawyers from speaking with witnesses before they are deposed.
O’Mara, in a motion filed last week, said a group of officials who initially were involved in the investigation into Trayvon’s death came to the consensus that Zimmerman shouldn’t be charged.
The motion says Assistant State Attorney Jim Carter, after more than a week of meetings with several officers, including Chief Bill Lee, who was later fired, disagreed with Christopher Serino’s recommendation that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter.
The state never told O’Mara about the meetings and, as a result, defense attorneys want lawyers to stay away from witnesses until their statements can be taken under oath.
“It didn’t seem like anyone in law enforcement wanted him (Zimmerman) arrested,” O’Mara said last week. “I’ve very concerned about the basis for this prosecution.”