Zimmerman Trial: State Running Out of Time

For much of the trial, the defense has beaten the prosecution at its own game.

Defense attorneys Mark O'Mara (left) and Don West with George Zimmerman at the July 3 proceedings (pool/Getty Images)

Gorgone said he recovered some samples matching Trayvon’s DNA from Zimmerman’s clothes, but most of the DNA was Zimmerman’s.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

For much of the trial, the defense has neutralized many of the state’s witnesses and raised clear doubts about the strength of the case against Zimmerman. The state’s most effective testimony came on Tuesday, when the lead police investigator said Zimmerman’s description of Trayvon as a “[expletive] punk” showed “ill will and spite” — a key element requirement for a conviction on second-degree murder under Florida law.

In other testimony on Wednesday, firearms expert Amy Siewert said the gunpowder burns on Trayvon’s hoodie were consistent “with a contact shot.” She clarified that her finding meant the gun muzzle was “touching” Trayvon’s clothes when the weapon fired — not “pressing,” as the prosecution argued in its opening statement.

Jurors also heard testimony from two of Zimmerman’s former professors at Seminole State College, who said he was a student in their courses on criminal law and investigations. One of them, attorney Alexis Carter Jr., extensively covered Florida’s self-defense laws, including “Stand your ground.”

“He was probably one of the better students in the class,” Carter said of Zimmerman. Carter added that Zimmerman earned an A in the course.

The state says Zimmerman’s coursework proves he knows more about criminal law than he claims. Zimmerman said in an interview with Fox News last year that he hadn’t known about the “Stand your ground” law before the shooting.

Carter said Zimmerman was his student in 2010, nearly two years before the shooting.

The state contends that Zimmerman’s course work illustrates his knowledge of criminal procedure and policing techniques, potentially enough to help him craft a false self-defense claim.

Carter, under cross-examination by the defense, explained in detail the Florida’s self-defense statute that he taught Zimmerman and other students.

He said he taught that self-defense is lawful “when you have a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm. But when stuff hits the fan, you’re judged by jurors. Your actions have to meet a reasonable standard objectively, so whether or not a reasonable person in your position would have felt the same way.”

Carter said he also discussed an “imperfect defense,” in which a person “takes it too far” by acting “unreasonably in countering the forces that was presented to them.”

In court Friday:

The state is expected to conclude its case, but not before calling a few highly anticipated witnesses, such as the medical examiner who performed the autopsy of Trayvon’s body. That testimony likely will address the trajectory of the bullet and distance it traveled before entering Trayvon’s chest — key details that could reveal more about the fight.

In addition, Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and brother could take the stand. Fulton is expected to say that she believes the voice heard screaming for help on a 911 was her son’s. An FBI expert testified about the agency’s inability to identify the voice. 

Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.