This 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."