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Judge limits defense in Trayvon Martin case

SANFORD, Fla. -- Attorneys won't be able to mention Trayvon Martin's drug use, suspension from school and past fighting during opening statements at the trial of a former neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot the teen, a judge ruled yesterday.

However, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson left open the possibility that the defense could try again later during the trial if it could show relevance.

George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the 17-year-old's killing and has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense. He did not attend yesterday's hearing.

In another key motion, Nelson refused to allow jurors to travel to the shooting scene during trial, and rejected a defense request to delay the trial set to begin June 10.

The judge called the request to let jurors see the crime scene "a logistical nightmare." Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said Nelson's decisions would not affect how he presented his case.

The judge also ruled that some of the Martin's texts and other social media statements won't be allowed in opening statements, though those, too, could be allowed later with a ruling from the judge depending on how the case progresses.

O'Mara told the judge that Martin's marijuana use and past fighting was central to the argument that Zimmerman used self-defense when he confronted Martin last year at a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

"We have a lot of evidence that marijuana use had something to do with the event," O'Mara said. "It could have affected his behavior."

An attorney for Martin's family, Benjamin Crump, said the teen's parents were pleased with the judge's rulings on information they consider immaterial to the February 2012 shooting.

"Trayvon Martin is not on trial," Crump said.

The judge also ruled against a defense request that the pool of 500 jury candidates be sequestered during jury selection.

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