Prosecution Boosts George Zimmerman's Credibility While Trying to Undermine It

Video via The Orlando SentinelVideo via The Orlando SentinelThis morning Debra Nelson, the judge overseeing George Zimmerman's murder trial, ruled that prosecutors could present testimony about courses in criminal justice that he took at Seminole State College. The prosecution's aim was to bolster its portrayal of Zimmerman as an overeager wannabe cop and to contradict his claim, during an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, that he had not heard of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law until after he shot Trayvon Martin. But as usual in this trial, the state's evidence helped the defense at least as much as the prosecution.

One of Zimmerman's former professors, Alexis Francisco Carter, testified that Zimmerman "was probably one of the better students" taking his course in criminal litigation, during which Florida's self-defense law was discussed "quite a few times." While not conclusive, Carter's testimony certainly suggests that Zimmerman lied during his interview with Hannity. But under cross-examination by defense attorney Don West, The Orlando Sentinel reports, Carter highlighted legal principles that work to Zimmerman's advantage:

Carter testified that injuries aren't required for a valid self-defense claim, but that they can support that a person had a "reasonable fear" of harm or death. A situation can turn deadly very quickly, he said.

"Things can change in a matter of moments," Carter testified. He also said the initial aggressor in a situation can be put on the defensive, if the other person's response is disproportionate.

More from ABC News:

"It's imminent [danger], so the fact alone that there isn't an injury does not necessarily mean that the person doesn't have a reasonable apprehension of fear," Carter told the court. "The fact that there were injuries has a tendency to show or support that that was an apprehension of fear."

West hammered at the point.

"You don't have to wait until you are almost dead before you can defend yourself?" asked West.

"No, I would not advise to do that," responded Carter, causing Zimmerman to laugh.

So while the prosecution may have damaged Zimmerman's credibility by suggesting that he lied on Fox News, it simultaneously reinforced the plausibility of his self-defense claim. It is also worth noting that Zimmerman's knowledge of Florida's "stand your ground" law has no bearing on his guilt, since his defense does not hinge on any special aspect of that law. In fact, as ABC News notes, "it was the first time in eight days of testimony that jurors heard about Florida's 'stand your ground' law."

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  • Stormy Dragon||

    Stupidest question was the prosecutor's, "Can a gun designed for self defense be used to murder someone?"

    No, you have to buy one of them special murderin' guns for that.

  • sticks||

    no. really?

  • dinkster||

    Evidence that the prosecution is trolling America.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    This would have been the perfect the occasion for Zimmerman to slap his attorney on the ass to show his approval for a job well-done.

  • Hash Brown||

  • Stormy Dragon||

    HEY! IT'S ENRICO PALAZZO!

  • ||

    You are making that up.

  • ||

    Any bets on how this circus will end?

  • dinkster||

    Riots in LA.

  • PapayaSF||

    And Oakland.

  • SIV||

    I hope not Atlanta (and I don't expect it). We got one after the Rodney King verdict.I remember police helicopters rescuing a Korean family off of the roof of their besieged supermarket. A guy got dragged from his car right downtown and beaten into a permanent vegetable. That riot inspired a lot of firearm carrying that persists to this day. I'll probably give Pops a box of 20 gauge buck for his bird gun. His eyesight isn't as good as it used to be.

  • Rich||

    I predict this ring of the circus will end in a hung jury.

    Gotta avoid offending anyone, so the agony will be prolonged.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Lying on Sean Hannity's show better not be a crime, or prosecutors in D.C. will have a lot of politicians to round up.

  • triclops||

    Silly Rube, is not lying when they do it.

  • SIV||

    ATL #1 in TSA seized firearms. The article has this amusing story from NJ:

    Most of those who are stopped with guns are reluctant to talk about it afterward. One who didn't mind was Raymond Whitehead, 53, of Santa Fe, N.M., who was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey in May after screeners spotted 10 hollow-point bullets in his carry-on bag. Whitehead, who is completely blind, also had a .38 caliber Charter Arms revolver in his checked bag that he had failed to declare. He said in an interview with the AP that he was unaware of the specifics of the rules for checking guns, or that hollow-point bullets are illegal in New Jersey.

    Whitehead acknowledged that it seems "counterintuitive" for a blind man to have a gun but said he keeps a loaded gun handy for protection from intruders. In such a situation, he said, he would call out a warning that he had a gun and spray bullets in the direction of the noise if the intruder didn't leave.

    "I have five shots, and if I fan it out I'm going to hit you," said Whitehead, a National Rifle Association member who owns five guns.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    This is the kind of irresponsible yahoo that makes gun owners look bad. Randomly firing because you heard a noise isn't a valid application of self defense.

  • Redmanfms||

    This is the kind of irresponsible yahoo that makes gun owners look bad. Randomly firing because you heard a noise isn't a valid application of self defense.

    Uh, he's blind dude.

    What do you propose he do?

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Yeah, it sucks he's blind. I'm sure he hates not being able to drive too, that doesn't mean we should let him try to drive by ear because "What do you propose he do?"

  • SIV||

    I hope the reporter "fact-checked" the story. You have to wonder who helped them find that guy.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    That story is way too good to check.

  • Redmanfms||

    Great mealy-mouthed non-answer.

    So your proposal is to deny him a fundamental right because of physical handicap?

    Gotcha.

    Love the driving equivalency, the dog that don't hunt that gun grabbers continue to run out of the cage in an effort to deny people their rights.

    I know being unable to drive has the same potential consequences for me as being unable to have a gun to shoot an intruder.

  • Acosmist||

    No, spraying bullets is not ok, full stop. If you continue arguing, you are an idiot.

  • Generic Stranger||

    To be fair, the blind dude is probably more likely to hit his target than the average street cop.

  • ||

    Disagree. Depends on circumstances. Full stop.

  • Acosmist||

    If you can't see what you're shooting at, you cannot possibly be exercising gun safety.

    You are the problem.

  • ||

    Hypothetical:

    Blind man lives alone in the country ( I know such a person ).

    Late one night he awakens and hears someone in the house. He calls out. He tells them to leave. He warns them that he has a gun. They dont leave.

    He hears them approaching him. He sprays bullets in their direction, kills them.

    Cops arrive and find dead burglar with long criminal history lying in a pool of blood still clutching a knife.

    Blind man says "Thank god I didnt listen to Acosmist."

  • SIV||

    Thug sees "creepy ass cracka" walking wearing sunglasses and carrying a white cane. Approaches said cracka and asks “What’s your problem, homie?” blind man replies “I don’t have a problem.” Thug says “You’ve got a problem now” and knocks him to the ground and begins pounding his head into the concrete. Blind man draws gun sticks it against Thug's body pulls trigger.

    While I don't agree with this man's particular "combat strategy" I can certainly see a blind person owning and effectively using a firearm for self defense. It would be particularly useful to a blind women defending herself from a rapist.

  • Hash Brown||

    What if it was his sister come to visit after decades apart, and she'd become a deaf mute in the meantime?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    You don't think it's way irresponsible to "spray bullets in [someone's] direction" when you can't see them at all?

    I'm not against a blind person owning a gun. I can imagine a scenario like the one SIV describes here where it would a responsible use of it.

    But you're scenario is not that.

  • Robert||

    Cops arrive and find dead deaf maintenance man.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    No, spraying bullets is not ok, full stop.

    It's part of official cop training.

  • Xenocles||

    Sure, let him spray and pray. But every bullet you send downrange has a lawyer attached to it, and I hope he has a good insurer.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Having the means to kill is a responsibility as much as a right. While in theory a blind people shouldn't be discriminated against, in practice it's nearly impossible for them to use a gun in a way that isn't life-threateningly reckless.

  • SIV||

    Close quarters. Like sticking it in the belly of a thug and firing. Or as Suthenboy postulated' a scenario where you have reason to believe no one is beyond your target even if you aren't exactly sure where the target is. Shit,responsible sighted persons and cops aren't always sure of what is beyond their target when their life is on the line.

  • Careless||

    I'm reminded of Life of Brian

    Stan: I want to have babies.
    Reg: You want to have babies?!?!
    Stan: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.
    Reg: But ... you can't HAVE babies!
    Stan: Don't you oppress me!
    Reg: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?

  • Warrren||

    He has one of them special manslaughterin' guns.

  • anon||

    "I have five shots, and if I fan it out I'm going to hit you,"

    I bet you are, and I probably wasn't even the aggressor.

  • Hash Brown||

    Did the prosecution object when Carter started talking about what constitutes fear sufficient to establish a self-defense justification? Witnesses aren't normally permitted to tell the jury what the law means. That's the job of the judge in her instructions.

  • Generic Stranger||

    Does that usually go for witnesses who are recognized as experts on the law?

  • Hash Brown||

    I think so. There normally aren't any circumstances in which you'd be permitted to introduce an expert witness for that purpose. Unless someone is suing for legal malpractice, and you need an expert to testify on whether the statute of limitations that the defendant blew really damaged the plaintiff because her claim was shitty anyway.

  • ||

    Prosecution put a law professor on the stand and asked him to testify as to what he taught in class. They opened the door.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yeah, objecting to your own witness just makes you look incompetent. They've done enough of that already.

  • califernian||

    DONT FUCKING CARE

  • KPres||

    So, if Zimmerman is found not guilty, does that mean the race-baiters win or lose?

  • Hash Brown||

    Win the skirmish, lose the battle.

  • Redmanfms||

    I'm thinking they win either way.

    It's either a victory for their brand of mob identity justice, or further evidence of entrenched "institutional racism."

  • FireDrake||

    Pure speculation obviously, but it feels more and more to me like the prosecution is sandbagging this case. Feels like they know it's B.S. but because this had so much public attention they felt they needed to bring some case to prevent it from becoming an election issue. Bring a lousy case, lose it, blame the jury, have an easier time getting reelected.

    Just a thought that keeps popping up in this case.

  • Chloe||

    I'm thinking that too, but more because I believe that the prosecutors are vindictive assholes who don't like to be told what to do.

  • PapayaSF||

    I don't think they are intentionally sandbagging. They've basically been ordered to bring the case, and they are making do with what they have, which is not much.

    I mean, "He lied in a TV interview"? Seriously? "Straw...must...grasp...."

  • Dweebston||

    I ask you: would an innocent man lie during a television interview? Or obfuscate? Or, perhaps, even equivocate?

  • Michael S. Langston||

    So he may have lied about knowing about a legal principle on a TV show. A legal principle which is not being used in this case.

    Yet - the judge thinks it valuable enough to warrant jury knowledge?

    What would happen if he told Hannity he had never studied insanity defenses but another professor could testify it was discussed at length?

    I guess also useful?

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "So he may have lied about knowing about a legal principle on a TV show."

    Actually, the implication that he lied about knowing what the phrase "stand your ground law" means because he took a criminal justice class is pretty fucking stupid. The phrase isn't in the text book they used for the class, and I doubt the teacher even knows if he used it or not.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    I'm sick of Zimmerman.

    36 American Beers ranked

  • ||

    So which one is the rankest?

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    They don't have Canadian beers listed. I'd put Lucky Lager and Minhaus Creek on the list if that were the case.

    Allegedly Budweiser in Canada is a different/better recipe than American Bud.

  • PapayaSF||

    According to the list, Keystone.

  • Nephilium||

    Where's the beer in that list?

  • Nazdrakke||

    That list reads like a hipster trying to impress his hipster friends. Yuengling at 25 behind beers like Coors Light, Natural Fucking Ice, Milwaukee's Best, and naturally PBR.

    Are you fucking kidding me?

  • ||

    Forget it Jake, it's Gawkertown.

  • Nazdrakke||

    I know.. The link said Deadspin and every so often I forget that the days of it being a worthwhile place are long, long gone.

  • anon||

    To be honest, I couldn't rank Yuengling against PBR and Budweiser, cause I consider them the same thing pretty much... having fucking natural ice and coors light ahead of it is a bit much though. Must be some frat boy turned hipster.

  • MasterDarque||

    Credibility? No DNA or fingerprints from Martin on the gun..No DNA under Martin fingernails from Zimmerman - I guess Martin used some ancient negrow african voodoo style fight technique to kick Zimmerman ass without getting anything on him

  • Xenocles||

    DNA under Martin's fingernails? Have you ever made a fist in your life?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Maybe he thinks Treyvon is a girl's name?

  • Xenocles||

    DNA under Martin's fingernails? Have you ever made a fist in your life?

  • SIV||

    Seriously?

    "No DNA" is evidence?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    The absence of something could be evidence if the person is claiming an activity that usually gets that something on you.

  • ||

    What's the race card play in the initial comment evidence of?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Race and ideas about race has become a foundation for people's opinion in this matter when it should be a factual and legal question. It's unfortunate for sure, from either side.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Did he claim that Martin grabbed the gun, or that he was reaching for it? Did he claim that Martin was scratching him?

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    From what I understand he claimed Martin got on top of him and banged his head into the ground.

    I don't know anything about forensics and whether that kind of thing usually produces the kind of evidence the original commenter indicated, but if it did then the absences of it might undercut his story.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    I should add of course that regardless of whether evidence exists for Zimmerman's story it is the state's duty to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, not his duty to prove himself innocent or acting out of self defense. His story could be untrue or partly untrue and it would not necessarily prove he murdered the guy.

  • PapayaSF||

    Never heard anything about scratching. Zimmerman did say that Martin was trying to get the gun, but I don't think he said he actually got it.

    On SFGate the other day some bozo was claiming Zimmerman injured himself to cover up the murder. Right. First, position Martin over yourself so that his hoodie is hanging away from his torso, then shoot him. Next, scuff up Martin's knuckles to make it look like he was punching you. Then, break your nose and pound the back of your head onto the pavement. It's all quite obvious.

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    Again, I'm not an expert in these things but wouldn't it be common for one to scratch someone as they were grasping you and pounding your head into the cement in a struggle?

    I agree though that it strikes me as highly unlikely that Zimmerman self-inflicted his injuries.

  • PapayaSF||

    It seems to me that grasping doesn't necessarily involve scratching. Also, it's not clear to me exactly how Zimmerman's head was pounded on the pavement. If Zimmerman was knocked onto his back as he said, his head could easily have hit the pavement. Then Martin got on top of him, punching him in the face, as Zimmerman tried to get up, which could well involve his head hitting the pavement one or more additional times. So this could be "pounding his head on the pavement" without grabbing him by the ears or something.

  • Irish||

    Credibility? No DNA or fingerprints from Martin on the gun..No DNA under Martin fingernails from Zimmerman - I guess Martin used some ancient negrow african voodoo style fight technique to kick Zimmerman ass without getting anything on him

    This whole paragraph is stupid.

  • Agammamon||

    1. You're assuming Martin *has* fingernails of sufficient length - you'd be hard-pressed to find any *under* on my fingernails to get anything off of.

    2. Grasping and punching make is hard to get anything under your nails - punching because your nails are protected by your palm and grasping because he's not a woman with inch long nails.

    3. Why would the police check for DNA evidence under the nails anyway - its not like there's an unknown assailant that you'll have to identify and try to link to the crime later. They already know *who* shot Martin, that fact is not in dispute. Now they have to find out if the shooting was legal.

    4. Not being able to get *useable* fingerprints off the gun would not be unexpected. There's a struggle, fingerprints get smeared past legibility, even assuming that Martin touched the actual gun vice Zimmerman's hand (holding the gun).

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    No DNA or fingerprints from Martin on the gun

    Unless there have been additional witnesses, the fingerprint expert the prosecution put on the stand got one card from the gun with potential prints to check. The latent prints were taken from the slide of the gun.

    I don't know what kind of holster Zimmerman was using but I wonder how much of the slide was even exposed.

    If Martin reached for or grabbed the gun while holstered, it seems entirely reasonable that if he touched anything related to the gun, he touched the holster.

  • Stormy Dragon||

    See, this is the problem with shows like CSI. You don't leave measurable amounts of DNA on everything you touch, so most cases have no DNA evidence. The fact there isn't any doesn't, by itself, say anything.

  • odalysrowan16||

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  • Agammamon||

    They're getting desperate - $4600 ain't that hard to make at a real job. That's like, a grand a week take-home.

  • Heedless||

    If you're the sort of idiot who ,ought believe in that sort of ad, it's a lot of money for a month.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

  • Generic Stranger||

    Not hairy enough, and I don't think Sasquatches have fingers dextrous enough to play a guitar.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    4th of July? I want to play some Colonization.

  • Irish||

    I got a free downloadable remastering of Colonization that some dorks who have too much time on their hands made.

    It's basically the same old game, but they also include other European countries, like the Russians and the Portuguese.

  • Cdr Lytton||

    I've done well in classes where I later didn't remember large parts of them. Unless the prosecution has a paper by Zimmerman on Florida's self defense laws or video of a him in class participating in those discussions, I'm not seeing a definitive lie here.

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