Judge rules Trayvon Martin texts, fight reenactment not allowed as evidence

George Zimmerman defense can use video reenactment as 'demonstrative aid'

SANFORD, Fla. - Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that George Zimmerman's attorneys will not be allowed to present a computer-animated fight reenactment as evidence and also cannot introduce text messages from Trayvon Martin's phone.

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Nelson sustained both of the state's objections on Wednesday morning after hearing arguments at an admissibility hearing, which went until 10 p.m. Tuesday. Nelson said the computer animation showing the fight between Zimmerman and Martin may be allowed to be shown as a demonstrative aid during closing arguments. The animation cannot be reviewed by jurors during deliberations, Nelson said.

Nelson also ruled Martin's text messages discussing guns and fighting will not be allowed to be shown to the jury.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Sanford gated community in February 2012.

On Tuesday night after the jury left the courtroom for the evening, computer forensic expert Richard Connor, who found evidence on Martin's phone, was proffered. Defense attorney Don West sought to enter texts about acquiring firearms, fighting experience that Connor found on Martin's cellphone.

West said a Facebook message, in which Martin's half-brother asked him "When you going to teach me how to fight?" was also sought to be included.

Connor then read the text messages from Martin's phone, in which Martin says he was sore from a fight and talked about winning the second and third rounds. Conner said the messages on Martin's cellphone showed he was trying to buy or sell a gun.

Nelson said she had authentication issues with the text messages and photos because she says she has no identifying factor to show it was Martin himself sending the text messages. West said if the state turned over phone records sooner they could have tracked down the people Martin was texting and confirmed it was Martin sending the texts.

Nelson had previously ruled that information about Martin's interest in guns and fighting couldn't be used during opening statements. But had she left open the possibility that they could be introduced later.

O'Mara argued the animation helps jurors understand the altercation and said the state already entered a timeline graphic, which he says is similar.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei argued the animation software is not accurate and that there hasn't been any testimony about the potential error rate of the software.

At an evidence admissibility hearing on Tuesday, the defense called witness Daniel Schumaker, the man who made the animation. O'Mara questioned Schumaker on his motion capture suits and software he uses to make the animations.

Schumaker said the motion capture technology he used in the animated reenactment was also used in Iron Man and Avatar.

Schumaker then showed Nelson the animation of Martin and Zimmerman's fatal struggle. The 911 call with the fatal gunshot and screaming in the background was pieced together with the animated reenactment.

The state cross-examined Schumaker Tuesday afternoon after court. Mantei questioned Schumaker about the motion capture suits technology. Schumaker said it was his first time he used the suit on a close contact fight.

Schumaker also said he used the account of witness Jenna Lauer, who made a 911 call the night of the shooting, to help create animated reenactment. Nelson said the use of Lauer's 911 call in conjunction with eyewitness John Good's testimony was an issue for her.

Prosecutors objected to the animation, saying it isn't an accurate depiction. The state filed a motion on Monday that the "computer-animated reenactment of some purported events" was a late disclosure by the defense. According to the motion, the animation was provided on July 2, 2013, less than 30 minutes before his deposition.

According to the motion, the animation should be blocked because of speculation and the incompleteness of the animation.

The state writes the animation depicts lightning conditions that do not resemble the actual conditions, relies in part upon statements from police reports that were contradicted in court, does not show the murder weapon and the angle of the two figures fighting is based on "approximations" made by the witness.

According to the motion, the data used in the animation was collected when the witness went to the murder scene and had two employees of Zimmerman's law firm to wear "motion capture" suits while the witness directed them to position themselves and what actions to take based on his approximations.

The state says the animation also has Martin as left-handed instead of right-handed. According to the motion, the witness said the animation was "created only using items provided by the defense counsel and that he had 'no idea' whether there might be addition evidence, statements or items bearing on the accuracy of the depiction; nor did the witness make any such inquiry."

Zimmerman is pleading not guilty. The former neighborhood watch volunteer claims he shot Martin in self-defense.

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