SANFORD, FL (RNN) - Defense attorneys for George Zimmerman will pursue a "Stand Your Ground" hearing in hopes of freeing the former neighborhood watch captain on second degree murder charges.
The outcome of the hearing will be decided by a judge without a jury present. Prosecutors said the hearing will function as a "mini-trial," and focus on whether Zimmerman, 28, reasonably believed he was in imminent danger at the hands of Trayvon Martin, 17.
Police on the scene declined to arrest Zimmerman after he admitted to shooting and killing Martin in February because they said evidence on the scene was consistent with a claim of self-defense.
Documents released by the prosecution show lead investigator Chris Serino thought Zimmerman should be charged with manslaughter early on in the case.
Defense attorneys expect a "Stand Your Ground" hearing won't take place for several months.
"Preparing for the 'Stand Your Ground' hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for trial," defense attorneys said in a press release. "It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing."
Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law was passed in 2005. Most similar laws allow the use of deadly force when a person feels his or her life is in danger. However, Florida's law takes it a step further and allows deadly force to be used whenever a person feels his or her life is in danger - in public or private settings.
The law states specifically that "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself."
However, the law's authors have said the law wouldn't apply to the Zimmerman case, since 911 recordings from the scene indicate he was following Martin before Zimmerman shot him.
"He has no protection under my law," former Sen. Durrell Peaden told the Miami Herald in March.
Zimmerman has adamantly denied following Martin. Instead, he said he got out of his car to figure out what address he was at for the police dispatcher.
If a judge finds the "Stand Your Ground" defense credible, all "reasonable" court costs and attorneys fees will be reimbursed to Zimmerman. He will also receive compensation for lost income and be immune to further prosecution in the case.
If convicted, he could face life in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
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