Zimmerman Trial Takes July 4 Off, Case Resumes Friday

The jury in the George Zimmerman trial will be off for the holiday but they will remain sequestered during the break. Zimmerman is the neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida accused of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. On Wednesday, a judge ruled that testimony on Zimmerman's criminal justice studies should be allowed.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's get an update now on the Trayvon Martin murder case being held in Sanford, Florida. The state is expected soon to wrap up its case against George Zimmerman. He's the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager. In a week and a half of testimony, prosecutors have painted a picture of Zimmerman as a wannabe cop, someone who profiled Trayvon Martin and then, after he shot Martin, tailored his story to fit Florida's self-defense law.

NPR's Greg Allen reports.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: From the beginning, prosecutors have acknowledged it's up to them to prove that Zimmerman wasn't acting in self-defense that night last year when he pulled the trigger and killed Martin. This week, police investigators noted there were inconsistencies in the story Zimmerman told them, but they considered them minor.

Asked by the defense whether he thought Zimmerman ultimately was telling the truth, Chris Serino, the former lead investigator in the case, said yes. The judge told the jury that Serino's opinion was inadmissible and that they should disregard it. But on Tuesday, prosecutors appeared to make some headway in undermining Zimmerman's story.

It began with the testimony of medical examiner Valerie Rao, who studied the injuries Zimmerman received in the fight. She was questioned by prosecutor John Guy.

JOHN GUY: In terms of severity, how would you classify the injuries to the defendant's head?

VALERIE RAO: They were not life-threatening. They were very insignificant.

ALLEN: Rao said she saw no evidence Zimmerman's head was repeatedly slammed into the concrete by Martin. She said she believes Zimmerman's head hit the concrete only once, although she conceded to defense lawyers there could have been more impacts that left only minor damage. And then prosecutors raised new questions about Zimmerman's story.

They began by playing an interview he gave last year to Fox News' Sean Hannity, an interview that included this excerpt.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SEAN HANNITY")

SEAN HANNITY: Prior to this night, this incident, had you even heard Stand Your Ground?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: No, sir.

HANNITY: You'd never heard about it before.

ZIMMERMAN: No.

HANNITY: Wow.

ALLEN: Stand Your Ground is a name given to a Florida law that allows people in fear of death or great bodily harm to use deadly force in self-defense. Yesterday, prosecutors introduced chapters from text books and courses Zimmerman studied at Seminole County Community College. One was a criminal litigation course taught by Alexis Carter.

Carter told the court Zimmerman was one of his best students, and that the class studied and discussed Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Prosecutors will argue that armed with his knowledge of the law, Zimmerman may have tailored his story to help his case for self-defense. This was testimony and evidence Zimmerman's lawyers unsuccessfully tried to exclude from the trial.

But once it was in, defense lawyer Donald West made the most of it, putting before the jury one of Zimmerman's central claims.

DONALD WEST: So when you taught the class: What is the core concept of self defense when you can use deadly force?

ALEXIS CARTER: When you have a reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm.

ALLEN: But Carter said the class also discussed what he called imperfect self-defense. He told prosecutor John Guy those are cases where people who are faced with a threat overreact.

CARTER: The force that you are encountering, you meet that force disproportionately. It's excessive force.

WEST: So, I guess, in the ultimate level of force in these scenarios is deadly.

CARTER: Is deadly force.

WEST: Like a gunshot.

CARTER: Like a gunshot.

ALLEN: Prosecutors are expected to wrap up their case tomorrow. The defense will then begin with its witnesses, still not determined whether the defendant, George Zimmerman, will testify. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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