I noticed today while reviewing the comments to yesterday’s article that several people mentioned O’Mara has subpoenaed Martin’s grades from the school he attended. This prompted a discussion about the admissibility of character evidence. I wrote this article to assist y’all with that discussion. (H/T to Vicky)
The legal test for self-defense is whether George Zimmerman reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of suffering death or serious bodily injury when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. This is an objective test that will require the fact-finder to determine if Zimmerman’s belief was reasonable, given the facts and circumstances that led to the shooting, as shown by the evidence introduced by both parties.
The Court must apply the following rule in deciding whether to admit evidence regarding Martin’s character.
Rule 404(a) Character Evidence Generally.
Evidence of a person’s character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion, except:
(2) Character of alleged victim.
Evidence of a pertinent trait of character of the alleged victim of the crime offered by an accused, or by the prosecution to rebut the same, or evidence of a character trait of peacefulness of the alleged victim offered by the prosecution in a homicide case to rebut evidence that the victim was the first aggressor.
This rule allows Zimmerman to introduce any competent and relevant evidence he can find that supports his claim that Martin is a psycho-gangsta, a person who is physically aggressive and likes to start fights. Such evidence, assuming he can find any, would support his claim that Martin turned into a psycho-gangsta who suddenly appeared out of nowhere, confronted him as he was minding his own business walking back to his truck, sucker-punched him in the nose for no apparent reason, and tried to beat him to death with his bare hands.
I am not aware that any such evidence exists and I doubt he will find any. However, assuming for the sake of argument, that he does, that will open the door to permit the prosecution to introduce evidence that Zimmerman acts like a psycho-gangsta.
I think Zimmerman would be well advised not to open that door.
The rule also permits the prosecution to introduce evidence that Martin was a peaceful person to rebut Zimmerman’s testimony that Martin was the aggressor.
I believe we are likely to see the prosecution introduce evidence that Martin was a peaceful and non-violent person. That is likely to be the only character evidence we are likely to see.
Zimmerman has admitted that he did not know anything about Martin and he was not afraid of him. He did not claim that he thought Martin was armed with a weapon and we know that the police did not find a weapon on Martin. Given Zimmerman’s conflicting stories, the minor nature of his wounds that do not support his description of the fight, and the forensics which are not consistent with his narrative, I think a jury will reject his testimony and conclude that he was not in imminent danger of suffering death or serious bodily injury when he shot and killed Martin.