Attorneys for two Jewish brothers accused of beating a black teenager while patrolling their Baltimore neighborhood argued Monday that their trial should be postponed until passions lessen in a Florida case that has drawn national attention and media comparisons between the two incidents.
"We believe a delay until the (George) Zimmerman matter settles down would be in the best interests of justice, defense attorney Andrew Alperstein said on behalf of Eliyahu and Avi Werdesheim, who are charged with assault and false imprisonment for allegedly attacking a 15-year-old boy in November 2010.
"You don't belong around here," one of the brothers allegedly said, according to police charging documents, while the other threw the boy to the ground, breaking his wrist. Elder brother Eliyahu, 24, was a member of the Orthodox Jewish citizens watch group known as Shomrim at the time. Avi, 21, was never a member, neighborhood representatives have said.
Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Sylvester B. Cox did not rule on the request, instead ordering the brothers to return this morning, ready for trial before another judge. The motion likely will be argued fully then.
The Werdesheim case has "significant" parallels to Zimmerman's, Alperstein conceded Monday. The neighborhood watch captain, who is Hispanic, is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February as the teenager walked through a gated Florida community.
Both Zimmerman and the Werdesheims have said they were acting in self-defense, and both cases have raised the question of whether race played a role.
As of Sunday, Alperstein said more than 180 local and national news stories had linked the Werdesheims to Zimmerman.
"The similarities between this case and the Martin case are symbolic," Alperstein said, adding that he was concerned that the brothers' trial would rekindle the strong emotions raised by the Florida teen's death.