ORLANDO - Statements a former neighborhood watch leader made to detectives after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin can be released to the public, a judge ruled Wednesday.
But Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said that the identities of witnesses who observed the fatal confrontation in February between George Zimmerman and the 17-year-old Martin can stay private, provided the witnesses have not been identified previously.
“The innocent witnesses who have performed their civic or moral duty by reporting what they observed to law enforcement should not have their lives turned upside-down for having done so,’’ Lester wrote.
Lester’s ruling was in response to a challenge news media groups filed against efforts to seal some records.
Prosecutors and Zimmerman’s lawyer wanted to keep both Zimmerman’s statements and the witnesses’ identities private. They had argued that their release would jeopardize Zimmerman’s chance of getting a fair hearing when he is tried on charges of second-degree murder. Zimmerman says the shooting was in self-defense.
The judge said disclosing Zimmerman’s statements to police would not jeopardize his ability to get a fair trial.