George Zimmerman speaks, but won’t testify in his defense (+video)
The man at the center of the Trayvon Martin murder case told Judge Debra Nelson on Wednesday he will not take the stand – one of several last minute moves by Zimmerman's defense team.
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Zimmerman, through his lawyers, has claimed self-defense, saying Trayvon attacked him, punched him to the ground, and beat his head against a concrete sidewalk. Dennis Root, a private eye and “use of force” expert, testified Wednesday that Zimmerman was a hapless fighter who had few options in the heat of the battle but to use his weapon in self-defense.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Florida vs. George Zimmerman: Case closed?
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Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled Trayvon as a criminal, trailed him, confronted him, and then killed him when the situation turned against him. They assert Trayvon is the one who had the right to defend himself under the law after being followed for two minutes by an armed adult stranger.
According to Doug Keene, an Austin-based jury consultant who has followed the case, the defense ultimately may not have made much headway by bringing up a toxicology report that showed Trayvon had a trace of THC in his system on the night he was killed. A medical examiner had said the amount may have affected his behavior, but scientific studies have failed to show that marijuana has any ties to violent behavior – unless the person is already violent.
The judge had ruled several times against introducing character evidence against Trayvon, but said she would allow more testimony on the trace marijuana because the state’s own witness, medical examiner Shiping Bao, changed his mind about whether the active ingredients in the drug could have influenced what happened on the night of Feb. 26, 2012.
Another decision may have helped the defense to rest before bringing up the pot issue: On Wednesday, the judge barred the introduction of cell phone messages in which Trayvon talked about street fighting. Without that evidence, the marijuana argument may have faltered, Mr. Keene said, given the number of teenagers and adults who report having used the drug at least once.
Late Wednesday, prosecutors wanted to call a new witness to rebut testimony by defense witnesses that Zimmerman “was largely incapable of fighting,” according to assistant state attorney Richard Mantei. The witness, a state alcohol enforcement agent, would testify that Zimmerman attacked him in 2005 during an arrest of several of Zimmerman’s friends at a bar, Mr. Mantei said,
“The state attorney’s office dropped a battery on an officer charge to a misdemeanor,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued back. “Eight years ago [Zimmerman] was overarrested for something. It was dismissed outright. Bears no significant … value, both because it's ancient in time, ancient in act, and the way it was handled by system suggests that it was a nonevent even to begin with.”
The new witness may testify Thursday before both sides make their closing arguments and the six-woman jury gets the case.