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Judge in Trayvon Martin case puts limits on defense

By The Associated Press

This article was published May 28, 2013 at 1:49 p.m.

MIAMI — Defense lawyers for George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, will be barred from mentioning Martin's marijuana use, fighting or high school suspension during opening arguments in Zimmerman's trial, which begins June 10.

At a hearing in Seminole County court, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson denied a string of defense motions Tuesday that sought to portray Martin as a troubled teenager with a propensity for fighting and an interest in guns. Prosecutors argued that the evidence has nothing to do with the seven minutes that led to Martin's death on Feb. 26, 2012. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, was killed by Zimmerman, who said he shot him in self-defense.

Mark O'Mara, a lawyer for Zimmerman, argued in court that Martin's drug use could have made him more aggressive and paranoid, traits that could have prompted him to attack Zimmerman.

"All of that fits in squarely to what the defense is going to present: that George Zimmerman was put in the position that he had to act in self-defense," O'Mara argued. "How could you keep us from arguing that?"

Nelson replied: "The rules of evidence keep you from doing it."

The judge left open the possibility that some of this information, including Facebook postings and text messages, may come up at trial, but she set a high hurdle for the defense. Nevertheless, O'Mara viewed the decision as a victory, saying that it forces prosecutors to be careful in how they portray Zimmerman.

"You get ready for whatever battle they may throw at you, with the hope that most of your weapons stay in your quiver," O'Mara said at a news conference after the hearing.

Nelson also called it a "logistical nightmare" to allow jurors to visit the gated community in Sanford, Fla., where Martin was shot. She denied that request. O'Mara said he wanted jurors to get a feel for the dark cut-through between two rows of town houses in the spot where Martin was shot.

The judge also ruled that the massive jury pool, which could number 500, would not be sequestered during jury selection. She has not yet ruled on whether jurors who are chosen for the trial should be sequestered.

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LevyRat says... May 28, 2013 at 3:42 p.m.

Absolutely, the fact that this this little angel liked to smoke dope, got into fights and was kicked out of school at the time has nothing to do with this case ...... right!

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Pobucker says... May 28, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.

I can't remember if Trayvon was wearing a hoodie....

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Pobucker says... May 28, 2013 at 4:19 p.m.

Robert Zimmerman Jr. read a statement to the media after the hearing in which he described his younger brother as a civic-minded crime fighter who became his “staunchest advocate” after he came out as gay more than a decade ago.

The brother blasted the state special prosecutor for bringing a murder case against Zimmerman after he was not charged by Sanford police.

“The politics of race trumped the rule of law and a political calculation was made,” Robert Zimmerman said. “It was the wrong decision.”

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GCW says... May 28, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.

Dumb vs. dumber.

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Jfish says... May 28, 2013 at 5:02 p.m.

How is it a logistical nightmare to put 12 people on a van and take them a few miles for a site visit? It's Miami, not the Alaskan wilderness.

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Pobucker says... May 28, 2013 at 5:14 p.m.

Well, Jfish, it is fairly obvious the state planted a judge who would be antagonistic to the defense. The judge and prosecutor may well be "scissor" buddies.

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cliffcarson says... May 28, 2013 at 8:03 p.m.

As I recall:

Zimmermann spied Martin coming back from the store where he had bough Ice Tea and Skittles. There was dampness from a light rain and Martin was wearing a hoodie.

Zimmermann calls in saying he is following a suspicious person. He goes on about the darker people and their propensity for crime.

Zimmermann is asked if he is following the person. He answers yes.

He is told to stop following that person. But he keeps on following him anyway.

less than 5 minutes later he shoots Martin.

Two things are very obvious:

If Zimmermann had stopped following Martin when told to, he would not have shot Martin that night.

Martin was unarmed and was committing no crime.

Zimmermann, after the shooting, claimed he didn't have money to defend himself at a trial. He lied.

Martin is not here to tell his side of the story.

Zimmermann's attorneys are letting the Media be the defense for Zimmrmann.

Shameful.

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NoUserName says... May 28, 2013 at 8:44 p.m.

Have you actually read the transcript? Pretty obvious that's a no. He didn't go 'on about the darker people and their propensity for crime.' And the dispatcher never said STOP.

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JessePinkman says... May 28, 2013 at 9:26 p.m.

Cliff please go back and read about this before spouting false crap. The 911 dispatcher asked for his description and THEN he told him he was black. NBC had to fire someone because they edited the tape to make Zimmermann appear racist by leaving out the part where 911 asked for his description. See you try the as I recall and a bunch of idiots will believe you.

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