It was not the first piece of misinformation tied to her but it was the most damaging to date and left prosecutors in a very awkward position.
They had to publicly acknowledge that their star witness had lied under oath and had to answer questions about what they intend to do about it.
Will you charge the 19-year-old Miami woman with perjury, reporters asked.
The state’s lead prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, gave an ambiguous answer: “You can all read the law and make your own decision.”
The woman had told prosecutors she was in the hospital on the day of Trayvon’s funeral.
“In fact, she lied,” said defense attorney Don West.
The disclosure was one of two major developments Tuesday at what had been expected to be a dull hearing about the exchange of case evidence.
The other: Zimmerman’s lawyers will not hold a “stand your ground” hearing in April, one that could clear him of criminal wrongdoing before his trial.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara made that announcement in court, later saying he had not yet decided whether to scrap it entirely or roll it into Zimmerman second-degree murder trial, which is set for June 10.
“Our real focus is getting ready for the trial,” O’Mara said.
What Zimmerman most wants is to be tried by a jury of his peers, O’Mara said, and with less than 100 days until trial, “There’s only time for one hearing, and that’s a jury trial … We have precious little time.”
Zimmerman was not at Tuesday’s hearing. Neither was his wife, Shellie, who’s awaiting trial on a perjury charge, accused of lying at her husband’s April 20 bond hearing. That’s what prompted the perjury question to de la Rionda.
If defense lawyers decide to forego George Zimmerman’s immunity hearing, they would be cutting in half their number of opportunities to spare him from a life in prison.
Florida’s “stand your ground” statute has generated a great deal of public debate since Trayvon’s death one year ago in Sanford. It provides immunity to anyone who uses deadly force, provided he has a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury.
Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense.
Because of Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson’s very tight schedule, when O’Mara told her he would not put on a two-week “stand your ground” hearing starting April 22, he essentially told her he would not hold that hearing before Zimmerman’s trial.
She did not press him to spell out his plans.
De la Rionda said he was “bewildered” by O’Mara’s decision but did not elaborate.
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old former Neighborhood Watch volunteer, called Sanford police Feb. 26, 2012, describing Trayvon as suspicious. Zimmerman shot the unarmed high school junior a few minutes later, saying he fired in self-defense after the Miami Gardens 17-year-old punched him, broke his nose then began pounding his head onto a sidewalk.
Sanford police found no witnesses to the initial confrontation, but Trayvon’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, found something close: Trayvon’s girlfriend, who’s identified in court records as “witness 8.” She told Crump she had been on the phone with Trayvon just before the shooting.
According to an interview Crump recorded after the shooting, the young woman said Trayvon told her a stranger was following him, and he was scared. Trayvon got away from him once, but the man re-appeared, she said, and she heard Trayvon ask, “‘What are you following me for?'”
The man answered, “‘What are you doing here?'” she said, then she said the man must have pushed Trayvon because the phone went dead.
The woman gave de la Rionda a very similar account during a sworn statement April 2, and when his office wrote up its probable cause affidavit, charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder, it rehashed her account but did not include her allegation that she heard Zimmerman push Trayvon.
Despite’s Tuesday’s revelation, there is no indication the woman lied about what she heard on the phone the evening Trayvon was shot. But she appears to have given Crump another piece of bad information: Her age.
He told reporters in March, when he played excerpts from the recorded interview, that she was 16 years old. In fact, she was 18 at the time. Crump has said he did not knowingly misrepresent her age.
O’Mara would not say whether the woman should be prosecuted for perjury for lying under oath about being in the hospital.
But months ago, he and co-counsel Don West began trying to investigate her. They earlier convinced the judge to allow them to subpoena her Twitter and Facebook accounts so they can read her posts.