(ORLANDO, Fla.) — Witnesses in the upcoming murder trial of George Zimmerman will not be permitted to testify anonymously, a Florida judge ruled Thursday, just four days before the start of what is be a closely watched case in the murder of teenager Trayvon Martin.
In their last hearing before the June 10 trial, lawyers hashed out the final rules for the proceedings, including whether witnesses would be allowed to testify anonymously, and whether audio experts could testify about which of the two men could be heard yelling for help on a recorded 911 call from the time of alleged murder.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with shooting Martin, an unarmed black teenager inside a gated community in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012. The teen’s death has become a racially charged case that has gained nationwide attention.
Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara said some witnesses feared for their safety if his client were acquitted, and asked that they be allowed to testify anonymously during the trial.
Zimmerman, who has received death threats, has been in hiding since his arrest and often wears a bullet-proof vest when he appears in public to attend court hearings
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued that allowing some witnesses to testify anonymously could unfairly sway the jury who might assume those witnesses were more important.
Judge Debra Nelson rejected O’Mara’s request, ruling that all witnesses would have to be named and appear in open court.
Also Thursday, O’Mara called to the stand Ben Kruidbos, a former IT director in the state prosecutor’s office.
The defense claims Kruidbos is a whistleblower who brought to the attention of Zimmerman’s lawyers deleted texts, photographs, and video found on Martin’s phone and which prosecutors failed to disclose to the defense. Among those items are photos of Martin possible holding a gun and smoking marijuana. A video on the phone includes Martin talking and could be crucial in matching his voice to the one heard yelling for help on the 911 tape.
The judge has ruled that those photos cannot be mentioned in Zimmerman’s opening statement, but has left open the possibility that they could be introduced later.
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