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Florida teenager's shooter faces deadline in court

George Zimmerman arrives for a hearing in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool
George Zimmerman arrives for a hearing in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Florida want George Zimmerman to state publicly at a court hearing on Tuesday whether he will pursue his immunity defense in the 2012 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin on the basis of the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, or waive his right to use it.

Prosecutors asked Judge Debra Nelson in a motion to remind Zimmerman "that should defendant in fact wish to waive any pre-trial immunity challenge under this statute, he may not attempt to do so later, particularly once trial has commenced."

Zimmerman will attend Tuesday's hearing, according to his lawyer, Mark O'Mara. However, O'Mara told Reuters he hadn't decided what he will do if the judge tries to question his client.

"I know the state would like to have that information, it seems. I don't feel compelled to advise anybody of my strategy in this case," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman goes on trial June 10 on a second-degree murder charge for shooting Martin after prosecutors say he profiled and confronted the unarmed black teenager, despite a police dispatcher instructing him not to do so.

Zimmerman, 29, was a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time and Martin was walking back to a town home in the gated community in Sanford, Florida, with snacks to eat while watching a televised basketball game in February last year.

O'Mara has talked publicly about pursuing immunity for Zimmerman under Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" statute, which bars prosecution of someone who is in fear of his life and shoots rather than retreats. O'Mara canceled a scheduled hearing earlier this month to make the case, but told Reuters he believes he has the right to raise the immunity defense at any time during the trial.

"If you can convince someone, a judge, by preponderance of evidence that you acted in self defense, then you're immune, and that can happen however it happens," O'Mara said.

Prosecutors want to pin Zimmerman down on the record over waiving his right to pursue immunity in order to pre-empt the possibility that he might try to revive it after trial if he is found guilty, according to the motion. O'Mara said it would be difficult to raise the issue post-conviction.

Nelson also will hear a defense request to unseal a settlement between Martin's parents and the homeowner's association at The Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision where Martin was killed.

The association's insurance company at one point offered its policy limit of $1 million to the family, according to correspondence between the insurance company and association attached to the motion. The defense argues that the jury should be able to consider the financial interest of potential witnesses in the case.

(Editing by David Adams and Christopher Wilson)

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