Judge: Zimmerman statements can be released

Witnesses' identities to stay private

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ORLANDO, Fla. - A judge says statements a former neighborhood watch leader made to detectives after he fatally shot 17-year-Trayvon Martin can be released to the public. 

But Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester ruled Wednesday that the identities of witnesses who observed the fatal confrontation between Martin and George Zimmerman can stay private. 

Lester's ruling was in response to a challenge by media groups, including The Associated Press, against efforts to seal some records. 

Prosecutors and Zimmerman's defense attorney had wanted to keep private Zimmerman's statements to police after the fatal shooting in February, as well as the identities of witnesses. They had argued that their public release would jeopardize Zimmerman's chance of getting a fair hearing when he is tried for second-degree murder. 

Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.

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