[Clarification (7/26/14): I’ve just been informed by a knowledgeable person on the Zimmerman side of this case that what was submitted to the 5th DCA this past Friday is the official notice of appeal.  The actual appeal has not yet been submitted.]

As anticipated by, well, everybody, George Zimmerman’s civil lawyer, James Beasley Jr., has filed an appeal with Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals (5th DCA) of the dismissal by June Debra Nelson of Zimmerman’s defamation suit against NBC broadcasting.  This is per reports by Orlando’s WKMG and the Orlando Sentinel.

We previously covered Judge Nelson’s dismissal of the suit here at Legal Insurrection, Zimmerman Libel Suit Against NBC Thrown Out, including the full text of her order.

Judge Debra Nelson

Judge Debra Nelson

The basis of the defamation claim is that NBC made Zimmerman appear racist by doctoring a 911 recording so as to make it appear that Zimmerman made an unsolicited identification of Trayvon Martin’s race.

In fact, Zimmerman was explicitly asked about Martin’s race by the police dispatcher, thus triggering his observation that “he looks black.”  It is this explicit dispatcher request which was cut out of the doctored version of the recording aired repeatedly by NBC.

Whether Zimmerman had a history of racism was key to the State’s effort to convict him of second degree murder, which under Florida law requires some degree of malice. The State had hoped to use evidence of racism as that malice “hook.”

In the event, no evidence of racism was found despite dozens of FBI interviews made of Zimmerman’s friends and neighbors, including an ex-fiance with whom Zimmerman had previous legal difficulties and presumably had no interest in lying in his favor. Indeed several of Zimmerman’s neighbors and acquaintances appeared in court–as State witnesses!–and testified favorably about his character.

It is, of course, interesting that the same judge who presided over Zimmerman’s criminal trial (after only just having transferred over from the court’s civil division) now finds herself back in the civil division and presiding over his civil trial.

Having followed the criminal trial live for its duration, as well as the pre-trial hearings involving Judge Nelson, it was certainly this lawyers impression that she strongly favored the Prosecution–to the point of letting the Prosecution escape immediate sanctions for concealing exculpatory evidence from the defense.

Indeed, this perception was not limited to myself, but was shared by her bosses, the 5th DCA. Without checking back for year-old trial records, it is my recollection that each and every time Zimmerman’s criminal trial counsel appealed a Judge Nelson ruling to the 5th DCA, that higher court reversed Nelson’s prior ruling.

I expect we’ll see much the same occur with respect to Zimmerman’s appeal to the 5th DCA of Nelson’s dismissal of his civil suit.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

P.S. The newest Law of Self Defense University Video/Podcast has just been released:  “#004: The Intersection of Tactics and Law.” Enjoy!


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He holds many state-specific Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and produces free online self-defense law educational video- and podcasts at the Law of Self Defense University.