Media Ask to Have Zimmerman Court Papers Unsealed
(CNN) — Several news media organizations, including CNN, asked a Florida judge Monday to reverse an order sealing court records in the prosecution of George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the February 26 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, a case that has drawn intense national publicity.
Prosecutors did not object when Zimmerman’s lawyers asked Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler to seal records last week. The judge ordered the court filings and other records sealed “without giving the public and press an opportunity to oppose closure,” the media motion said.
Florida law requires a judge to consider whether the records closure is needed to “prevent a serious and imminent threat” to justice, the motion argued.
The court must also find that there is no alternative to sealing the records that would provide a fair trial and that the action would not be “broader than necessary to accomplish this purpose,” it said.
Zimmerman’s lawyers did not address those issues or present any evidence, the motion said.
“In case after case in Florida, courts — including the United States Supreme Court — have held that prominence and publicity are not synonymous with prejuice and impartiality, and have cautioned against assuming that all potential jurors follow the news and retain what they read and watch,” the media filing says.
Jurors who can’t set aside their biases created by exposure to pretrial publicity can be screened out during the jury selection process, the media motion argued.
CNN joined several newspaper and broadcasting companies, including the publisher of USA Today, the Miami Herald and the New York Times, in the effort to unseal the documents.
Zimmerman is scheduled to return to court Friday for a bail hearing.