SANFORD — A former Seminole State College instructor on Wednesday told jurors in the George Zimmerman murder case that in Florida, you can start a fight with someone, and if he fights back violently, you can use deadly force if you fear grave injury or death.
Prosecutors had called Capt. Alexis Carter Jr., now in the U.S. Army, to suggest that if anyone could cook up a plausible self-defense story following a shooting, it would be Zimmerman, who was taking criminal-justice classes in hopes of becoming a police officer.
Carter acknowledged that Zimmerman was in his criminal-litigation class in the spring of 2010. He was a good student, Carter said, and earned an A.
But as has happened several times in this case, a witness meant to bolster the state's case might have damaged it instead.
Carter said he provided handouts to his students about Florida's "stand your ground" law, a statute that has received a great deal of criticism since Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012.
The law provides criminal and civil immunity to those who uses deadly force, provided they had a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily injury.
Zimmerman says he did, that he shot Trayvon in self-defense after the unarmed Miami Gardens high-school junior attacked him, knocked him to the ground with a punch that broke his nose, then climbed on top and began banging his head on a sidewalk.
Carter's testimony went bad for the state in court Wednesday when defense attorney Don West asked him exactly what he taught Seminole State students about the law.
Here's what Carter said: It provides immunity not just to people who use lethal force to stop an attack but also to people who start confrontations, then find themselves overwhelmed by a violent response and fear of death or "grievous bodily harm."
West asked: Do you have to wait until you're nearly dead to respond with deadly force?
"No, no, you don't," Carter said.
It made for another lackluster day for prosecutors, who hope to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder and send him to prison for life.
The state did manage to make Zimmerman look like a wannabe cop. He is. In 2009, he applied for a job as a police officer in Prince William County, Va. Prosecutors on Wednesday placed into evidence his rejection letter. He was turned down, said Prince William County Lt. Scott Kearns, because of bad credit.
DNA and gun testimony
A state DNA expert, Anthony Gorgone, testified Wednesday that Zimmerman's DNA was found on Trayvon's shirt and Trayvon's DNA on Zimmerman's jacket.
Authorities also checked for Trayvon's DNA on Zimmerman's gun, a Kel-Tec 9 mm that the defendant said Trayvon had reached for just before he fired. They found none of Trayvon's DNA on the gun.
During cross-examination, however, Gorgone said that he could make no positive match but found someone's DNA on the gun's slide and could not rule out Trayvon as the source.
Another FDLE analyst, firearms expert Amy Siewert, showed jurors the bullet holes in Trayvon's hoodie and shirt and the ring of tiny gunpowder burns around them.
That convinced her, she said, that the muzzle of the gun was touching cloth when Zimmerman pulled the trigger.
Prosecutors were hoping to finish their case Wednesday but fell just short of that.
When the trial resumes Friday at 8:30 a.m., they're expected to put on one or two more witnesses, including Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, then rest.
Fulton is expected to tell jurors that the cries for help heard in the background of a 911 call the night of the shooting are those of her son.
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Read about the verbal dispute that occurred at the courthouse.Copyright © 2015, CT Now