SANFORD — Former neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was well versed in Florida’s self-defence laws before he shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, despite a previous claim to the contrary, jurors were told at Zimmerman’s trial yesterday.
The contradiction came into evidence as prosecutors were preparing to wrap up their case tomorrow after two weeks of testimony aimed at showing inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s accounts of the February 2012 shooting.
On Tuesday, Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson let the jury hear a television interview in which Zimmerman said he had no knowledge of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which underpins his trial defence.
But an army prosecutor who taught Zimmerman in a 2010 college class on criminal litigation, testified that he often covered Florida’s self-defence and “Stand Your Ground” laws in his 2010 course. Army Captain Alexis Carter said Zimmerman “was probably one of the better students in the class”, calling him an “A” student.
Under the “Stand Your Ground” law, which was approved in 2005 and has been copied in some form by about 30 other states, people fearing for their lives can use deadly force without having to retreat from a confrontation, even when it is possible.
The statute is central to Zimmerman’s defence in a case that captivated the United States throughout much of 2012 because police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman based on his self-defence argument and right to use deadly force under Florida law.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, saying he shot Martin in self-defence during their confrontation inside a gated community in the central Florida town of Sanford on February 26, 2012. (Reuters)