Under direct testimony John Good testified that the black man wearing the black hoodie was straddling the man in the white or red sweatshirt “MMA-style” and rained down blows in a “Ground-and-Pound” style of attack.

 

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Taryvon Martin at 7-11, February 26, 2012

It seems possible that this line of questioning may have openend the door to the defense being able to introduce video and other evidence of Martin’s own activities and expertise in street-fighting, evidence which to date has not been admitted into evidence.

BDLR:  I want to go back to what you described as a straddling position, is that because of the posture of the person on top versus the person on the bottom.  At some point you also used descriptive words as MMA-style, do you remember saying that.

Good:  Yes

BDLR: Did you mean by that, what, sir?

Good: As a straddle position like that, it’s a common position you would see in a–

BDLR: MMA is mixed-martial arts? Is that correct?

Good: Correct.

BDLR: You watch that on TV?

Good: Not recently.

BDLR: When you say that you’re referring to the position of the person had top over the position of the bottom

Good: And the actions of the arms, looked like something I’d seen on TV before, so it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Recall that John Good had elsewhere in his testimony stated that “the guy in the top in the black hoodie pretty much just throwing down blows on the guy kind of MMA-style.” See link below for details:

ZIMMERMAN TRIAL BLOCKBUSTER — TRANSCRIPT — Eyewitness Good: Black guy in black hoodie on top punching down Mixed Martial Arts style

As those following the case will know, there exists evidence that Trayvon Martin had an active interest in developing skills in “street fighting,” essentially MMA-style fighting without the legal sanction and corporate logos. Indeed, there appears to be video and other evidence of specific instances in which Martin was practicing, organizing, or otherwise engaging in such street-fighting.

Naturally, the defense would like to have that evidence presented to the jury. But can they? Under normal evidentiary rules the answer is “no,” unless Zimmerman was aware of those prior acts at the time he used deadly force against Martin. In this case, of course, the two men were unknown to each other, so Zimmerman would have had no such knowledge.

It is admissible under Florida law to introduce testimony about Martin’s general reputation for violence to show that is more likely that Martin was the aggressor, and it’s not necessary that Zimmerman knew of that reputation at the time of the attack. The difficulty is where would the defense find someone who was close enough to Martin to know of his reputation for violence and who would also be willing to testify as to that reputation in court.

For more information on how an attacker’s prior acts or reputation can be admitted under Florida law click here:

Can the Prosecution Keep Trayvon’s History of Violence and Drug Use from the Jury? Yes . . . and no.

There are, however, other possible avenues by which the defense might successfully have Martin’s past specific acts of street fighting or MMA fighting admissible as evidence, and the State may have opened one of those doors through de la Rionda’s questioning above. By asking questions about whether Martin’s actions against Zimmerman were consistent with MMA-style fighting, they have made exactly that point an issue in the case.

Because the State has raised the issue on direct questioning of their own witness, the defense would seem to have a compelling argument that they should now be entitled to introduce their own evidence about Martin’s knowledge, experience, and expertise with exactly those fighting techniques, and in this way get the video and other evidence of Martin’s street fighting before the jury.

More specifically, the State has contested who was on top in the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. They have also suggested that Zimmerman had learned MMA-style fighting. Now their witness has said on direct that the person on top used MMA-style fighting techniques (he also said the person on top was black, but whatever).

Were I the defense I would argue that the relative MMA-style fighting knowledge of Martin compared to Zimmerman is now an issue of material fact raised by the State, and the video and other evidence of Martin participating in such fighting is therefore relevant, probative, and admissible.

So, there’s some food for thought.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes open for our detailed end-of-day wrap up, around the 8:00PM hour, as well as a piece or two over the weekend to prepare us for week 2 of the trial proper.

–Andrew


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense,” now available in its just released 2nd Edition, which shows you how to successfully fight the 20-to-life legal battle everyone faces after defending themselves. UPDATE: July 5, 2013 is the LAST DAY to take advantage of the 30% pre-order discount, only $35, plus free shipping. To do so simply visit the Law of Self Defense blog.

BREAKING: “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” is now also being carried by Amazon.com, at list price but with a commitment for 2-day delivery.  A Kindle version to come within a week or so (I hope).

Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense (or @LawSelfDefense2 if I’m in Twitmo, follow both!)on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.