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Series of experts testify in Zimmerman trial

SANFORD, Fla. -- Prosecutors presented evidence Wednesday 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 because the subject was covered in the college class. They called as a witness Alexis Francisco Carter, the military attorney who taught Zimmerman's class.

Florida's stand-your-ground law says a person has no duty to retreat and can invoke self-defense in a killing if it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

Carter said Zimmerman was one of his better students and said he got an "A."

Under cross-examination, Carter gave two definitions of legal concepts that seemed to bolster the defense's case. He said a person can make a self-defense argument if he has a "reasonable apprehension" of death or great bodily harm.

"It's imminent fear. The fact alone that there isn't an injury doesn't necessarily mean that the person didn't have a reasonable apprehension or fear," Carter said. "The fact that there are injuries might support there was reasonable apprehension and fear."

Carter also explained the concept of "imperfect self-defense," when a person being threatened counters with a force disproportionately greater than the force used against them.

"They would have the right to defend themselves?" said defense attorney Don West.

"Right," Carter said.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled 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 also began a detailed questioning on the forensics analysis performed on Zimmerman's gun after calling Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst Amy Siewart to the witness stand. She testified that residue and tearing on Martin's sweatshirt showed Zimmerman's 9-mm semiautomatic handgun was touching Martin's chest when it fired.

The department's DNA expert, Anthony Gorgone, also testified that Zimmerman's DNA was found among blood on a shirt Martin was wearing under his hooded sweatshirt.

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

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," said prosecutor Richard Mantei.

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