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The original lead detective believed Zimmerman caused the fight by getting out of his vehicle to confront Martin, who wasn’t doing anything criminal, and then could have defused the situation by telling Martin he was just a concerned citizen and tried to talk to him. He didn’t think Zimmerman could legally invoke Florida’s “stand your ground” law and should be charged with manslaughter.

Under that law, people are given wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if they believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured, they weren’t committing a crime themselves and are in a place they have the legal right to be. The original prosecutor in the case accepted Zimmerman’s invocation of the law after the Feb. 26 shooting but a special prosecutor rejected his claim last month and charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. The former neighborhood watch volunteer has pleaded not guilty, has been released on bail and reportedly is in hiding.

He and his attorney will have two more chances to invoke the law. First, they will try to convince a judge during what will be a mini-trial. If the judge agrees, the charges will be dropped although prosecutors could appeal. That is likely months away. If the judge rejects the claim, Zimmerman could they try to convince the jury and win an acquittal. A trial is unlikely to start before next year. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Thursday from The Associated Press.

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