Key players in the George Zimmerman case

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN

The defendant charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watchman with a penchant for calling 911 to report suspicious activity at the small Retreat of Twin Lakes gated community. A 29-year-old former criminal justice student, the man at the center of the racially charged case is half white, half Hispanic. He claims he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed the unarmed teen.

The Defense:

MARK O’MARA:

Known as a savvy litigator and calming courtroom presence, the Orlando lawyer took over Zimmerman’s defense shortly before his April 2012 arrest for second-degree murder. A lawyer since 1982, O’Mara has not shied away from representing clients in difficult cases over the years, including several in death-penalty cases. A longtime legal analyst for Orlando media, O’Mara has also been adept at defending Zimmerman publicly, frequently speaking to reporters and creating a website to disseminate information and seek donations that have topped $145,000.

DONALD WEST:

West, a respected Orlando defense attorney and longtime O’Mara friend, left the federal public defender’s office last year to join the Zimmerman defense team. A lawyer for more than three decades, West has worked often in high-profile death-penalty litigation. He is also a former president of the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The State:

BERNARDO DE LA RIONDA:

When the governor specially appointed the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office based in Jacksonville to prosecute Zimmerman, De La Rionda drew the assignment. One of the top homicide prosecutors in an office that covers Nassau, Duval and Clay counties, he is considered a fiery courtroom litigator, prosecuting some of the county’s most heinous killers. In 2011, he obtained a death sentence against a Georgia man who used Craigslist to meet a Navy wife, stabbing her 89 times. In 2010, the FBI honored him with a “Director’s Community Leadership Award” for his work in crime prevention.

JOHN GUY:

Also a top homicide prosecutor in the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Guy has tried more than 100 murder cases and is known as a cool and collected courtroom presence. He joined the office in 1993.

SEMINOLE COUNTY CIRCUIT JUDGE DEBRA S. NELSON

The third judge assigned to the Zimmerman case, Nelson is known as a no-nonsense, efficient jurist who is tough on lawyers on both sides. She is also presiding over the case of Shellie Zimmerman, George’s wife, who is accused of perjury in allegedly lying about the family’s finances after her husband’s arrest. Nelson was raised in Miami Beach and worked as a Broward County prosecutor before moving to Tallahassee in 1983 to become staff counsel for Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. She later practiced for more than a decade as a private civil attorney before then-Gov. Jeb Bush tapped her to become a judge in 1999.

Key observer:

BENJAMIN CRUMP:

Representing the Martin family, the Tallahassee civil rights lawyer has been a driving force in raising awareness about Trayvon’s killing. In the wake of the teen’s death, Crump has been instrumental in organizing rallies, setting up media interviews and obtaining high-profile speakers such as the Rev. Al Sharpton to speak in favor of criminal charges against Zimmerman. Florida civil rights advocates know him well: Crump was also instrumental in championing the cause of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who died after he was beaten by guards at a Panhandle boot camp in 2006.

Read more Zimmerman Case stories from the Miami Herald

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