• Part of George Zimmerman defamation lawsuit dismissed


    SANFORD, Fla. - A judge has dismissed part of a lawsuit against NBC Universal that claims the television network defamed George Zimmerman's reputation.

    Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson dismissed one of the five broadcasts in question, ruling Zimmerman's attorney waited too long under Florida statute to ask NBC to retract the information from the March 19, 2012, broadcast.

    Nearly a year ago, it was in Nelson's courtroom Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Lawyers claimed in a letter sent in December 2012 that NBC edited Zimmerman's 911 call the night of the shooting to make it sound like the former neighborhood watch volunteer was a racist.

    In the call, Zimmerman did not mention Martin's race until a dispatcher asked.

    "OK, and this guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?" the dispatcher asked.

    "He looks black," Zimmerman replied.

    But in a series of reports on NBC in March 2012, the dispatcher's question was edited out, which Zimmerman said made it appear as though he was suspicious of Martin only because the teenager was black.

    NBC's lawyer told the judge Thursday the reports were clear about presenting edited versions of the 911 call.

    "A reasonable viewer would understand that in each of these broadcasts NBC was not purporting to play the entirety of the recording, only excerpts from them," said NBC's lawyer, Lee Levine.

    NBC apologized in April 2012 and fired a reporter and a producer.

    Martin's killing sparked a fiery national debate about race, and Zimmerman's attorney said NBC's broadcasts maliciously added fuel to that fire.

    "When one's own words are used in a manipulated way against them, it gives it all the more credibility and all the more power because it's coming from the person who's making the statements," said attorney Jim Beasley.

    After the hearing, Channel 9 asked Beasley how Zimmerman has been since the trial ended.

    "Terrible. How would you be doing? He's in hiding. What else is he going to do? He can't get a job," Beasley said.

    Nelson said she'll decide whether to dismiss Zimmerman's lawsuit against NBC either in the next week or in about a month when she gets back from vacation.

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