Florida judge ruled Tuesday that George Zimmerman’s defense team cannot mention Trayvon Martin’s suspension from school, prior marijuana use, text messages or past fighting during opening statements at next month’s trial.
“This case has dragged on long enough,” prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said in arguing for the trial to start as scheduled.
Over the course of two hours, Nelson granted numerous motions by prosecutors, who asked that the defense be barred from bringing up details of the slain teen’s past, arguing they would not be relevant to the Feb. 26, 2012, confrontation between Zimmerman and Martin.
Defense lawyer Mark O’Mara had asked the judge not to pre-emptively exclude the evidence, saying that it bolstered their theory of the shooting – that the 17-year-old was the aggressor and Zimmerman shot him in self-defense.
“There is certainly enough evidence…that’s going to suggest Trayvon Martin involved himself ongoingly with fighting with other people,” O’Mara said.
Prosecutors argued that since Zimmerman and Martin didn’t know each other before the shooting, whether the teen had been involved in fights had no bearing on how the defendant reacted that night.
The judge ruled that the evidence about past fights could not be mentioned in opening statements but said it could be admitted during trial if the defense can authenticate it and overcome rules against hearsay evidence.
Outside the Seminole County courthouse, Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump praised the judge for limiting what the jury hears about guns, drugs or fighting in Martin’s past.
“Trayvon Martin did not have a gun. Trayvon Martin did not get out of the car to chase anybody. Trayvon Martin did not shoot and kill anybody. Trayvon Martin is not on trial,” Crump said.
Judge Debra Nelson said that during the trial she will consider motions to admit details as evidence on a case-by-case basis, outside the presence of jurors who will decide if Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin. Nelson rejected a defense request for a trial delay and ruled that it will start June 10.