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Florida judge rejects gag motion in Trayvon Martin shooting case

Judge Debra Nelson listens to arguments in the Travyon Martin murder case during a hearing in Sanford, Florida October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Geo
Judge Debra Nelson listens to arguments in the Travyon Martin murder case during a hearing in Sanford, Florida October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Geo

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida judge on Monday rejected an attempt by prosecutors to silence lawyers for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain charged with murdering unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda had requested a gag order contending that the lawyers' press conferences and Internet posts would taint the potential jury pool.

"This court does not find that a gag order is necessary at this time to guarantee a fair trial," Judge Debra Nelson wrote, siding with both Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, and lawyers from media companies who argued against limiting information about the case.

Zimmerman's case has attracted national media interest and triggered public outrage because police initially declined to arrest him after he shot and killed 17-year-old Martin on the night of February 26.

Zimmerman, 29, is currently free on a $1 million bond and living in an undisclosed location near Sanford awaiting his trial, which is due to begin June 10.

O'Mara insisted in court that he was only trying to respond to a "tidal wave" of inaccurate information about Zimmerman.

Lawyers for several media companies argued that other remedies existed to ensure a fair trial short of muzzling the lawyers.

In her order, Nelson agreed that she could counter excess publicity by moving the trial to another county, summoning a larger than normal jury pool to find unbiased jurors and issuing stern instructions to the jury to decide the case based only on evidence presented in court.

(Editing by David Adams and Cynthia Osterman)

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