Witnesses in the George Zimmerman trial will have to publicly reveal their identities if they want to take the stand at trial, a judge ruled Thursday.
The former neighborhood watchman facing murder charges in the shooting of Trayvon Martin asked for a handful of his witnesses to be allowed to testify confidentially during the trial, which starts next week, because of concerns over their safety. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said their testimony could impact the jury's decision.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson also heard testimony about whether a voice recognition expert will be allowed at trial. Cries for help can be heard on 911 calls that Zimmerman's neighbors made during a struggle between the neighborhood watch volunteer and Martin before the teen was shot. Experts have reached mixed conclusions about whose voice is crying for help.
Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense. A delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests nationwide. Martin was black. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic.
The trial is expected to last more than a month.
The judge also considered a request from defense attorneys to sanction prosecutors for what they describe as withholding evidence. Zimmerman's attorneys claimed that prosecutors withheld deleted photos and text messages that came from Martin's cellphone. An attorney for a technology worker in the State Attorney's Office testified that he first brought the evidence to the attention of Zimmerman's attorneys after he was contacted by the technology worker.
The judge decided to suspend further testimony on sanctions, and any decision, until after the trial.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.