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updated: 7/3/2013 12:06 PM

Judge allows school records in Zimmerman trial

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  • George Zimmerman, right, talks with his attorneys Mark O'Mara, left, and Don West, center, during a recess on the 17th day of Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court, Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

      George Zimmerman, right, talks with his attorneys Mark O'Mara, left, and Don West, center, during a recess on the 17th day of Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court, Tuesday, July 2, 2013 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. -- Prosecutors will be allowed to present evidence about George Zimmerman's work in a college criminal justice course, which they say shows the neighborhood watch volunteer knew about Florida's self-defense law and had aspirations of becoming a police officer.

Zimmerman had maintained in an interview with Fox News last year that he did not know about the law. Prosecutors say he did have knowledge of it, however, because the subject was covered in the college class.

Judge Debra Nelson also ruled Wednesday that prosecutors can show the jury Zimmerman's job application to a police agency in 2009 and his application to ride around with Sanford police in 2010.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year. Martin was black; Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. The case sparked nationwide protests and touched off a debate about race and self-defense.

Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty and claims he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors have sought to portray him as a vigilante who profiled the teen as he walked home from a convenience store on a rainy night.

Prosecutors said Zimmerman's ability to understand criminal investigations and desire to be a police officer doesn't show wrongdoing, but is relevant to Zimmerman's state of mind on the night Martin was killed.

"He has applied to be a police officer before, he still wants to be one, according to some of his homework assignments ... this wasn't some sort of passive thing," said prosecutor Richard Mantei, who noted Zimmerman took a course on how to be a good witness and expressed a desire to go on police ride-alongs.

When he was interviewed by detectives, Zimmerman spoke "in written police jargon" and talks about "justifiable use of force" and says he "unholstered my firearm, not I pulled my gun," Mantei said.

Defense attorneys believe the items are irrelevant and asked the judge not to allow them. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara referred to the prosecution's efforts to introduce them as "a witch hunt."

O'Mara said Tuesday that if prosecutors start bringing up Zimmerman's past, the defense will dig into Martin's past, including fights.

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