SANFORD, Fla. — The jury at George Zimmerman's murder trial can be told about his rejection letter from a Virginia police department, his course work for a class that discussed self-defense and stand-your-ground laws, and his application to do a police ride-along, Judge Debra Nelson ruled Wednesday.
"The testimony is substantive," Nelson said, overruling an objection by Zimmerman's lawyer.
Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder — claiming self-defense — in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, last year.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei said the records show Zimmerman had a continuous interest in becoming a police officer, understood police techniques, and understood criminal investigations.
Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said the records were irrelevant and didn't show Zimmerman's state of mind when he shot Trayvon. He called the prosecution effort a "fishing expedition."
With the ruling, the jury will learn that in July 2009 Zimmerman's application to be a Prince William, Va., police officer was rejected, and that in March 2010 he applied for a police ride-along.
The ruling also means the jury will see Zimmerman's homework he did toward an associate's degree in criminal justice. Zimmerman was set to graduate in spring 2012, the jury will learn. They'll also learn that Zimmerman had access to literature about how to "excel as a witness" and the theory behind Florida's stand-your-ground and self-defense law.
"It certainly goes to a state of mind," said Mantei who added that the records show Zimmerman carried wanted to be a police officer.
Alexis Carter, a former Seminole County College professor, testified that Zimmerman earned an 'A' in his criminal litigation class. Carter says he discussed Florida's self defense laws and stand your ground quite often with students.
Zimmerman was among one of his better students, Carter said.
Prosecutors said Carter's testimony is important because Zimmerman told Sean Hannity in an interview that Zimmerman didn't know about stand your ground laws until after shooting Trayvon. Carter told jurors he taught Zimmerman's class about stand your ground and talked extensively about self defense.
"I remember talking about it quite often," Carter said of his discussion about self defense and Florida's stand-your-ground law. He also explained to jurors that students learned that the fear of injury, not injury itself, could be cause to defend yourself.