SANFORD, FL (USATODAY.com) - A judge on Tuesday refused to delay the June 10 murder trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, at a hearing on motions ahead of the trial, also ruled that lawyers can't mention Martin's school records, past fighting, marijuana use, ownership of gold teeth, or any photos or text messages found on the teen's phone.
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Nelson said she reserves the right to change the ruling during the trial if lawyers open the door to such issues. However, she said that she can't imagine that any of these issues would be relevant.
She also said witnesses can't mention whether they think George Zimmerman's prosecution is politically motivated.
She ruled that any hearsay statements to help Zimmerman is admissible. She ruled that a toxicology test showing Trayvon Martin had marijuana in his system the night of his killing is not admissible.
Judge Nelson also granted the following motions:
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• State motions to prohibit witnesses from offering their opinions about Zimmerman's guilt, the proper punishment he should receive for his actions, and from telling the jury to disregard the law.
• A state motion to compel George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie Zimmerman, to testify at a deposition, but Nelson said Shellie can take the 5th and prosecutors will have to submit their questions in writing to the court and Nelson will decide if Shellie has to answer those specific questions.
• A motion to keep George Zimmerman from testifying about his lack of prior felony convictions.
• A defense motion to keep the identities of potential and actual jury members anonymous. Potential jurors will be referred to by numbers. Judge said other issues will be dealt with once jury selection is underway.
The judge denied a defense motion to allow the the jury to visit the area in the gated community where Trayvon was killed. She said taking the jurors would not be able to happen logistically while keeping their identities secret.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara and Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda sparred at length during the last hearing on April 30 when Zimmerman waived his right to a pretrial, self-defense immunity. Tuesday's hearing may be one of the last before the trial connected to one of the nation's currently most sensational and race-sensitive killings takes place.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is facing a second-degree murder charge in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a gated Sanford, Fla., community. Trayvon's family argues the young man was profiled, pursued and killed. Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after being attacked.
The trial for Zimmerman, who remains free on $1 million bond, is scheduled to begin June 10.
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For months, O'Mara has claimed publicly that a June 10 trial date was too early to prepare his case. In his most recent filing, the attorney said he needs more time to hire a speech identification expert and vet Alan Reich, a state witness and forensic acoustics consultant who believes the voice heard crying for help on a 911 call the night of the shooting is Trayvon Martin.
"The defense counsel will not have enough time to direct this new matter between now and the time of trial," O'Mara wrote.
The 911 call in question has long been thought to be a critical piece of evidence in a case where no eyewitnesses seemed to get a good look at the fight between Zimmerman and Trayvon. During the call by a resident of Retreat View Circle, a voice screams for help until a gunshot is heard. Using "scientific observations," Reich tentatively concluded that the voice was that of Trayvon because, among other things, the screaming stopped when the shot went off, Zimmerman's voice samples didn't match the call, and the voice was that of a young boy.
Judge Nelson denied an earlier motion by O'Mara to delay the trial date.