TODAY   |  July 04, 2013

Professor: Zimmerman took class that addressed self-defense

During day nine of George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial on Wednesday, the jury heard from Zimmerman’s former litigation professor, Alexis Carter, who testified that the “stand your ground” law was covered in the class. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports and NBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom comments on the case.

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>>> the prosecution in the george zimmerman trial is expected to call its final witnesses when the court reopens tomorrow, this after another dramatic day of testimony on wednesday. nbc's kerry sanders is in sanford, florida, following it all. kerry, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, kate. yes, the court is closed today, but on this 4th of july , the jury is still sequestered. the court says they have special activities planned for them, but what they're doing remains a secret. it's a short break from the massive amount of testimony they've already heard from 35 witnesses. former professor alexis carter testified george zimmerman was an "a" student in his college criminal litigation class.

>> he was probably one of the better students in the class.

>> reporter: it's been three years since carter taught zimmerman , yet the professor clearly remembers his student as defense attorney don west demonstrated to the jury.

>> you see george over here?

>> how you doing, george ?

>> reporter: carter testified the stand your ground law was a topic in his class.

>> i remember talking about it quite a few times, not just on one particular occasion.

>> reporter: yet in a fox news interview played for the jury tuesday, zimmerman said this.

>> i was just curious, prior to this night, this incident, had you even heard stand your ground ?

>> no, sir.

>> you'd never heard about it before?

>> no.

>> reporter: stand your ground is a florida law that allows people fearing for their lives to use deadly force without having to retreat.

>> he was hitting my head against the sidewalk. i felt like my head was going to explode.

>> reporter: zimmerman , who's pled not guilty, says trayvon martin attacked him, and he shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense.

>> you don't have to wait until you're almost dead before you can defend yourself?

>> no. i was advised you probably don't do that.

>> reporter: a rare moment of levity in this second degree murder trial. on wednesday, the jury was again shown the pistol zimmerman used that night, the sweatshirt martin was wearing, and the bullet hole made by the deadly shot to his lung and heart. the state presented testimony from a dna analyst.

>> state's exhibit 186.

>> reporter: who said only zimmerman 's fingerprints were found on the gun's grip.

>> yes. trayvon martin was excluded as being a possible contributor.

>> reporter: and that none of zimmerman 's dna was found underneath martin 's fingernails, despite zimmerman saying the teenager repeatedly slammed his head into the concrete.

>> can you hear us okay?

>> yes.

>> reporter: and the technical challenge in court wednesday sparked more levity as the witness had to testify on skype with the skype address visible on tv. some couldn't resist calling in.

>> is there another phone that we can call into?

>> reporter: skype . well, prosecutors are expected to call their last witnesses tomorrow. it could include trayvon's mother. kate?

>> kerry sanders in florida, thank you. lisa bloom is a "today" legal analyst. lisa, good morning. happy 4th to you.

>> good morning to you as well.

>> you just heard kerry sanders report that zimmerman 's former professor was on the stand yesterday, talking about teaching stand your ground in his classroom. what does that tell us? because zimmerman in an interview last year said he'd never heard of that law before. is the prosecution simply trying to show, once again, that he's inconsistent?

>> two big problems with that for george zimmerman . number one, it appears to be an out and out lie. he's caught on that videotape with a friendly interviewer saying, i never heard of it, and his professor says he was one of my best students, and we talked about it all the time. secondly, this is something the prosecution can argue in closing argument. you know what, he was educated enough in the law of self-defense to concoct a story right at the time of this shooting and give it to the police and stick to that story that it was self-defense because he knew that could exonerate him.

>> so they're trying to prove perhaps that zimmerman knew enough about the law to make an excuse and use it in his own defense.

>> exactly. that he could say i was in fear for my life. he was reaching for the gun. these are the magic words in self-defense law, and george zimmerman seemed to know them.

>> we had forensic he said prese evidence presented in court, dna evidence . kerry mentioned it. the prosecution seemed to be trying to show there was no dna found under trayvon martin 's fingernails or on his hands. why is this important? and did they make a convincing case on the dna ? is

>> it's certainly curious because george zimmerman says trayvon martin punched him in the face. if that's so, and trayvon martin tried to suffocate him, putting his hands over zimmerman 's face, why is there no dna on his hands, his fingernails or the cuffs of the shirt he was wearing? the problem is they had to admit there were real problems on the collection of the evidence. for example, the hoodie that trayvon martin was wearing got very wet from the rain. it was bagged in plastic, leading to the decomposition of biological evidence.

>> lisa bloom , thanks as always. we'll be back at it again tomorrow.