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Zimmerman judge excludes Trayvon Martin fighting, social media and marijuana use

Zimmerman judge excludes Trayvon Martin fighting, social media and marijuana use

Update — see post-hearing analysis at bottom of post.

At a hearing today, the Judge in the George Zimmerman case granted the prosecution’s motion to exclude all mention of Trayvon Martin’s social media use, including images and text relating to fighting and marijuana use.

We mentioned some of this evidence in our prior post.

The Judge’s ruling addressed Opening Statements and jury selection, and leaves open the possibility that if the prosecution somehow opens the door to the evidence, it could come in at trial, but for now, it’s out.

In a bombshell revelation, Zimmerman’s attorney asserted for the first time that Martin videotaped friends beating up a homeless man. I didn’t hear that part of the court hearing, but here is what an Orlando Sentinel reporter tweeted:

[UPDATE — Zimmerman’s attorney retracted the statement above:

During the Tuesday, May 28th hearing, Mr. O’Mara misstated the nature of video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone which was included in the Defendant’s 3rd Supplemental Discovery. He stated that the video showed “two buddies of his beating up a homeless guy,” when what happened was Trayvon Martin, along with a buddy, was videotaping two homeless guys fighting each other over a bike. Though it was unintentional, it is a particular concern to us because we are and have been committed to disputing misinformation in every aspect of this case, not causing it. For that, Mr. O’Mara apologizes.


Here are live tweets of other rulings from Orlando Sentinel reporters:

UPDATE – So what does the exclusion of this evidence of Trayvon’s alleged bad behavior mean?

Superficially it is a blow to the defense, since it doesn’t get to paint the alleged victim as a bad person. But, that only holds so long as the prosecution stays away from trying to portray Trayvon as a “good” person — the second the prosecution opens the door to Trayvon’s character, the defense will seek to introduce the evidence and the Judge may very well reconsider.

So this ruling ties the prosecution’s hands, since so much of its media case and the public perception nurtured by the family attorneys was based on demonizing Zimmerman based on his past and building up Trayvon as a “good kid” who wasn’t looking for trouble. The second the prosecution strays from the facts as to what happened, this ruling may go out the door.

Since the facts revealed so far — including Zimmerman’s statements which are consistent with documented and photographed injuries and at least some eyewitness accounts — create a reasonable doubt, the prosecution has hurt itself by not being able to introduce character evidence. That’s not a bad thing for the justice system, since the facts of what happened should control, but it does take away one of the prosecution’s main cards.


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This comes as no surprise. The current law in Florida allows for evidence of a “victim’s” (the legalese to refer to the person against whom one uses force in self defense) general reputation and/or specific prior acts only under limited circumstances.

General reputation evidence can be introduced as evidence showing that it was the “victim” rather than the defendant who was the initial aggressor in the conflict. This is so regardless of whether the defendant had knowledge of that reputation at the time of the conflict.

Evidence of specific acts of the “victim” (e.g., particular acts of violence) can be introduced as evidence of the reasonableness of the defendant’s fear (and therefore his reasonable belief that he needed to use force in self defense), but ONLY if the defendant had knowledge of those specific acts at the time of the conflict.

(Note that this is specific to Florida–pretty much every state treats these self-defense case evidentiary matters differently, even on very similar fact situations.)

By all accounts, the night of Martin’s deadly force assault on Zimmerman is the first time either man had knowledge of the other. As a result, it was always very unlikely that Zimmerman was going to be able to get evidence of Martin’s specific acts before the jury.

One way the specific acts evidence COULD still get before the jury is if the prosecution is stupid enough to argue that Martin possessed a good reputation in the community (e.g., for non-violence and sobriety). In that case the defense would be permitted to introduce specific acts of Martin’s that contradict that claimed good reputation. I wouldn’t count on that happening.

If anyone’s interested in more details on this, I did a thorough analysis of this issue a couple of weeks ago on my Law of Self Defense blog:

I never did a murder trial or worked in Florida but that ruling is consistent with my experience in California. The evidence is more prejudicial than relevant. Of course if the prosecution opens the door by introducing character evidence that Trayvon was a innocent angel then the defense gets a chance to rebut it.

    VetHusbandFather in reply to myiq2xu. | May 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I could see how most of this would be considered prejudicial, but I think barring the toxicology report from opening statements is a bit odd. Whether or not he was a pothead is largely irrelevant, but whether or not he was under the influence at the time of the incident does seem relevant.

Doug Wright | May 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

So, does this judge’s ruling mean that the state can represent Zimmerman as a cruel, twisted, racist, dirty rotten rotten and that’ll be just fine and dandy?

Somehow, that seems to be what the state is suggesting and certainly the highly vaunted Media is doing its bit to present that portrait of Zimmerman! Yet, perhaps Zimmerman will have a fair trial, maybe!

Has Martin’s name been put forward, yet, for sainthood, or assigned “honored” slain status, in certain quarters?

The judge has tied the defense team’s shoelaces together, making sure that Zimmerman won’t get a fair shake.

Henry Hawkins | May 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hi, I’m from the media. I have video of Trayvon teaching orphans how to make snow angels while cuddling kittens if the DA would care to have a look.

I feel deeply sorry for George Zimmerman. He is a certifiable victim of the State and its vast cultural minions. I hope for his ultimate vindication and that at such time he announces lawsuits against everybody involved in his attempted lynching.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to raven. | May 29, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I just wish GZ had the same competency and enthusiasm of counsel as the Duke lacrosse defendants had.

    He doesn’t.

Both sides at trial have to be careful to avoid raising “prior conduct”, since it WILL be objected to under the rules of evidence.

Generally, you have to prove a “pattern and practice” of prior conduct in order to have it be admissible.

Otherwise, our system tends to exclude extraneous evidence that someone MAY have acted in a way similar to something in the past. It is considered to be less probative than prejudicial.

Here, I think the prosecutors have to VERY carefully avoid even depicting Trayvon as an “innocent” in their presentations.

barring the results of the blood test and MJ in system seem odd though.

Alex Bensky | May 28, 2013 at 11:37 am

Trayvon Martin is what Obama’s son might have looked like, said Obama. I’d think better of him than that, but that’s what he said.

The fact is the Prosecution is absolutely basing a portion of their ‘case’ on the alleged ‘deeply flawed character’ supposedly ingrained in George Zimmerman’s psyche. The whole reason the incident occurred is solely due to George Zimmerman’s ‘racism’ and ‘propensity for violence’ based on past incidents in his life — according to the Prosecution [and every Race Hustler in America]. But so far as I can tell — that has all already pretty much been thoroughly debunked.

But the Prosecution will be desperate because they have heavily fouled this whole thing up from the start and an acquittal would not only be colossally embarrassing — but there might also be massive riots and and protracted mayhem as a result of an acquittal.

However, all the Prosecutor need do is take a bite from the Zimmerman character assassination apple — and Trayvon Martin’s proclivities for violence and drugs, and his well documented general juvenile delinquency, is all in.

Or it should be anyway.

But being old enough to have outgrown naïveté and having personally witnessed what I have in my life when it comes to how our Government has railroaded innocents in kangaroo courts in the past in order to appease ‘Racial Political Correctness’ and ‘Ease Racial Tensions’ — as in ‘to soothe the savage beast(s)’ — I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Prosecutor would be permitted by the court to do practically anything they want to while leaving the Defense firmly hobbled.

Based on first hand experience, first hand knowledge, and personally witnessing the steep and rapid decline of this country these last 5 years or so — I simply do not trust our Government anymore — at all — whatever their capacity in any and every situation they find the desire or requirement to assert and/or insert themselves into.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to FlatFoot. | May 29, 2013 at 1:47 am

    I pray GZ is vindicated and I hope his ethnic constituency shows their true colors and riot for days on end. Then they can be arrested and held accountable. Getting a few more of them off the streets for a few months would do FL good. Let the public see these davages unleashed in all their glory. I laugh at the thought.

    Businesses in the area would do well to beef up their insurance and arm themselves.

    But, as we saw in the Duke lacrosse case, the ethnics sympathizing with a “victim” of a crime had their sails deflated when they begrudgingly learned that, in fact, no crime at all ever occurred as details became more public.

    The other thing is that that ethinicity in particular has a live-in-the-moment attention span and many have earnestly recommenced their other routine parasitical endeavors, leaving Trademark in the dust. Their steam over Trademark’s shooting is largely spent, I believe, as their attention turns to more lucrative scams and their time is consumed by their usual criminal behaviors.

Juba Doobai! | May 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

This is not justice. Zimmerman is being railroaded because his name sounds white.

For the legal experts, a question. If the prosecution gets the family on the stand, which seems very likely will result in some variation of “he was a good boy” statement, does that open the door to introduce evidence that he wasn’t? Does that depend on if the witness is a defense witness or prosecution witness? It seems highly unlikely to me that at some point during the trial, somebody is going to play that card, and that the prosecution can jump on that like a hobo on a ham sandwich. Or maybe I’ve watched too many Law & Order reruns.

    Ragspierre in reply to windbag. | May 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Repeating the caveat that I do not practice criminal law…

    In the guilt or innocence phase of the trial, do not look for any family member to testify…from either family.

    As the Prof. has been saying, the Court here is focusing on the fundamental issues to be tried by the jury.

    “Who did what, when, and (to a very limited extent) why?”

    THAT night. Not before.

With Obama’s intervention, accompanied by the sympathetic media circus, is it possible for Zimmerman to receive a fair hearing? A false or outdated character witness of Martin was already offered by no less than the president. This would surely taint half of the prospective jury pool.

It seemed to me so far the State case is strongly leaning on Zimmerman’s state of mind to chase after Travon and initiate contact. As a layman, I cannot stand that trials aren’t a search for truth and justice… they’ve an opera for the abilities of the attorneys involved and the proclivities of the sitting Judge. This case shouldn’t even be going to trial. It’s a sham.

I hope Zimmerman is acquitted and sues the race hustler prosecutor and Trayvons attorneys for knowingly furthering a false case for a shake down. Where does Zimmerman go to get his life back?

I’m not surprised by the ruling. The only aspect that seems rather futile to me is the restriction on Martin’s toxicology results.

Zimmerman specifically noted Martin ‘appeared to be on drugs…’ during the 911 call.

So, unless the prosecution can somehow keep that recording out of the trial I don’t see how they’ll keep a lid on the toxicology results. Particularly if the defense needs it as evidence of their version of the crime – the one where Martin aggressively confronted Zimmerman and initiated the physical altercation.

This is going to be a trial I will keep tabs on.

My hope is the media’s overplayed hand will work to Zimmerman’s advantage.

Presumed innocent until proven guilty was not afforded.

BUT, this leftist excuse for a “judge” will allow the defense team to refer to trayvon as “Saint Skittles.”

Can the defense bring up the bias evoked when President POS said, to the media, “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon Martin?”

If that doesn’t disqualify 99% of jurors what would?

(But I am no legal eagle)

I’m a little slow.

So according to the Professor this ruling hurts the prosecution more than Zimmerman?

    William A. Jacobson in reply to wyntre. | May 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    It was something of a shot across the bow to make sure the prosecution doesn’t stray even one inch into character evidence.

      I see what you mean.

      “Superficially it is a blow to the defense, since it doesn’t get to paint the alleged victim as a bad person. But, that only holds so long as the prosecution stays away from trying to portray Trayvon as a “good” person. . .”

      something crossed my mind …. if they want to exclude martains drug use what happens if they introduce the 911 tapes … if I’m not mistaken Zimmerman stated he though trayvon was high on that 911 tape… it seems to me that if they allow that tape to be played it pretty much opens everything up

LAW, n. by Ambrose Bierce:

Once Law was sitting on the bench,
And Mercy knelt a-weeping.
“Clear out!” he cried, “disordered wench!
Nor come before me creeping.
Upon your knees if you appear,
‘Tis plain your have no standing here.”

Then Justice came. His Honor cried:
“Your status?—devil seize you!”
“Amica curiae,” she replied—
“Friend of the court, so please you.”
“Begone!” he shouted—”there’s the door—
I never saw your face before!”

Phillep Harding | May 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm

“Appears to be on drugs…” but the only drug mentioned is pot, which is not, in my experience, likely to induce violent behavior.

What other drugs, if any, were tested for?

There is a danger this will amount to a Stalinist Show Trial.

No charges were filed after the initial investigation, which included only the facts of the case, not the politics. It was only after the shyster Crump got involved, smelling a civil suit and convincing Martin’s parents there was a payday to be had, and calling in Al Showboat Sharptongue to create a media circus that the state intervened and began to railroad Zimmerman.

I’m making plans to be someplace safe, since I live in Florida, when the trial begins and ends.

Just sayin’ …

[…] Judge disallows evidence of Martin’s drug use and fighting references from phone and social me… […]

I’m of two minds on this. True, it yanks a huge stick out of the hands of the prosecution, in that they will not be able to portray St. Trevon vs the Evil Zimmerman *inside* the courtroom. However, you may expect the Leagues of Perpetual Outrage to fill the *outside* of the courtroom with as many howls and screams as they can buy. Their objective is jury nullification, and their bar is going to be very high. Somehow they need to convince all of 12 specific people that, even though the documented evidence says one thing, they need to vote a different way in order to “Save the community from the riots and give justice to the family” (as well as many millions of dollars to be extorted from the community over the next few years)