State wrapping up case against George Zimmerman

Published On: Jul 03 2013 08:12:13 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 03 2013 11:45:16 PM EDT

The judge in the George Zimmerman murder trial has dismissed jurors for the evening and Fourth of July holiday.

SANFORD, Fla. -

Judge Debra S. Nelson said she expects the state to rest its case against George Zimmerman and the defense is expected to begin on Friday, with no court being held on the Fourth of July.

[Chat recap:  Tony Pipitone inside courtroom]

After Nelson saying she wanted the state to rest by Wednesday, she recessed court at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday until 8:30 a.m. Friday. Jurors will remain sequestered during the holiday break.

Nelson denied the defense's request to adjourn Friday so it could take the deposition of Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Trayvon Martin's parents.

Attorney Don West said the defense objects to Crump's deposition schedule of Sunday at 6 p.m. West asked to take the day off from court on Friday so it can depose Crump instead.

Nelson said she was unwilling to give the day off of court, citing several reasons, including the fact that the jury is sequestered.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA analyst Anthony Gorgone was the first witness of the afternoon session on Wednesday as he described DNA conditions necessary for analysis. He also testified about his findings on Zimmerman's gun. On the grip, Gorgone said he found a mixture of DNA but Zimmerman was the major contributor.

Gorgone's DNA findings appear to contradict Zimmerman's claim that Martin grabbed the gun. Gorgone said he also scraped under Martin's fingernails and only found Martin's DNA, not any of Zimmerman's DNA.

Gorgone also said he didn't find any Zimmerman DNA on hoodie worn by Martin, but did find Zimmerman DNA on the front hem on the sweatshirt Martin was wearing underneath the hoodie.

Martin's blood was found on the front right upper of Zimmerman's jacket, according to Gorgone.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Don West asked if factors can degrade DNA. Gorgone said wet evidence should be dried before storage to preserve DNA. The defense claims the evidence was stored wet. Gorgone said the evidence being sealed wet in plastic bags could have caused the DNA to degrade.

Earlier Wednesday, Zimmerman's professor testified after Nelson ruled that Zimmerman's school records showing his criminal justice courses, police job application and an application to ride around with Sanford police officers will be allowed in his second-degree murder trial.

Nelson overruled a defense objection, trying to keep from evidence the fact that Zimmerman took a college criminal justice course that included course work on Florida's self-defense law, along with application records.

Nelson heard the arguments from attorneys Wednesday morning outside the jury's presence. The prosecution said school records show Zimmerman had knowledge of the law, though he claimed in a television interview played for jurors Tuesday that he didn't.

The defense said the textbook used in Zimmerman's class doesn't mention "stand your ground" and the state needs proof Zimmerman was in class the day it may have been taught.

Despite the defense trying to block his testimony, U.S. Army Capt. Alexis Carter, a military prosecutor who taught Zimmerman's Seminole State College criminal litigation class in spring 2010, took the stand on Wednesday.

Carter waved at Zimmerman and said, "How are you doing, George?" before beginning his testimony. Carter said Zimmerman earned an A, describing him as "one of the better students in the class." Carter said he taught self-defense law, but he added that it was not Florida-specific.  He did, however, teach about the "stand your ground" law.

Zimmerman had previously said on his interview with Sean Hannity that he had never heard of the "stand your ground law" before the shooting.

Carter, who began working for Orange County public defender in November 2009 while teaching the course, said self-defense was "constantly iterated" and was something "students really want to know about."

In cross-examination, West asked Carter to give jurors a lesson on "stand your ground." The state objected.

"The fact that there were injuries tends to show a person had a reasonable apprehension of fear," Carter said.

West then had Carter agree injuries are not necessary to justify deadly force and injuries support person had reasonable apprehension of fear.

"Someone initially feel that they are being threatened and they countered that with a force that was disproportionate to the force that was directed towards them, that would be imperfect self defense claim," Carter said.

During redirect, the state broached how self-defense applies to someone who "provoked" the encounter. The defense objected and the judge sustained it.

The state then called Jim Krzenski of Sanford Police Department administrative services. Krzenski verified Zimmerman wrote in his March 15, 2010 ride along waiver that he wanted to "solidify chance" of law enforcement career.

The fifth witness of Wednesday, Seminole State College Professor Scott Pleasants, testified via Skype. Dozens of people started trying to call Pleasants on Skype, forcing him to testify via phone instead.

Defense attorney and former Local 6 legal analyst Mark O'Mara questioned Pleasants about if Zimmerman read the book or discussed portions of it online. Pleasants said he can't confirm if Zimmerman participated in online discussions or read the book.

Pleasants testified Zimmerman posted to him on June 23, 2011 that his goal was to become an attorney and eventually a prosecutor, battling the state trying to show Zimmerman as a "wannabe cop."

[FREE:  Zimmerman App | PICS:  Murder Trial | VIDEO: Skype Fail | SPECIAL SECTION:  Zimmerman case]

The state also called as their 34th witness Amy Siewert, forensic technologist and Florida Department of Law Enforcement firearms analyst. Siewert showed jurors how Zimmerman's KelTec 9 semiautomatic gun works.

Siewert testified Zimmerman had a magazine full of 6 rounds, plus one in the chamber, meaning he had removed magazine and inserted round after one already in chamber. Prosecutor John Guy asked Siewert about the powder that comes from the gun after being fired and how the particles can leave a pattern on an object. Siewert said gas and particles can leave remnants on clothing and body called stippling.

The state then brought out Martin's clothing and had Siewart show how she found gunpowder on Martin's hooded sweatshirt during her analysis. Siewert said patterns of residue vary based on distance and other factors. Siewert said the hooded sweatshirt is consistent with contact shot, fire up against the hooded sweatshirt.

Siewert also said Martin's sweatshirt beneath the hoodie has the bullet hole that lines up with the hoodie. The sweatshirt also shows signs consistent with contact shot, Siewert said, adding that the sweatshirt is consistent with muzzle of gun touching outer hoodie and the garment being in contact with inner sweatshirt.

O'Mara then questioned Siewert about Zimmerman's gun, comparing it to a single-action gun. Siewert called Zimmerman's gun "safe in terms of it will not fire unless the trigger is pulled."

Siewert said the gun was "touching" garment and did not say it was pressed against Martin's chest. The state had previously told jurors the gun was "pressed" against Martin's chest. She didn't determine an exact distance between the gun and Martin's chest.

During redirect, prosecutor John Guy asked Siewert if a firearm could be used for other purposes.

The first witness called on Wednesday was Seminole State College registrar Sonja Boles-Melvin who had Zimmerman's college records. Records show Zimmerman applied for criminal justice degree in 2010/2011 anticipating graduation in spring 2012.

The state then called Lt. Scott Kearns of Prince William County Police--where Zimmerman applied to be a police officer. Nelson allowed testimony from Kearns at the hearing earlier Wednesday.

Kearns then testified Zimmerman's actual police application was destroyed on July 8, 2012. Zimmerman's rejection letter was dated July 8, 2009 and Kearns said he had no record of a sinister reason his job was denied.

Kearns said the reason Zimmerman's application was rejected was because of bad credit.

Earlier Wednesday, the defense voiced a desire to introduce 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's past because of Zimmerman's school records being allowed in the trial  Nelson said she disagreed and that the issues are not related. Nelson told defense any attempt to interject Martin's fight history is an "argument for another day."

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. He says he shot Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in self-defense.

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