Author Topic: Trayvon Martin's background  (Read 6734 times)

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Offline French pug

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2012, 11:09:55 PM »
Some other blogs are saying that if the defense introduces character evidence against Martin then the prosecution can introduce character evidence against Zimmerman. Is this true?

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2012, 11:54:02 PM »
It doesn't work like that.

If the state introduces evidence of TM's good character, the defense can challenge it.
If Zimmerman introduces evidence of his good character , the state can introduce evidence to challenge it.

The state can try to bring in prior acts of Zimmerman as 404(b) evidence  if it is relevant and probative of a material issue and not used for the purpose of demonstrating bad character or propensity.

Here is the Florida rule on character evidence.

Quote
90.404 Character evidence; when admissible.—

1) CHARACTER EVIDENCE GENERALLY.—Evidence of a person’s character or a trait of character is inadmissible to prove action in conformity with it on a particular occasion, except:
(a) Character of accused.—Evidence of a pertinent trait of character offered by an accused, or by the prosecution to rebut the trait.
(b) Character of victim.—
1. Except as provided in s. 794.022, evidence of a pertinent trait of character of the victim of the crime offered by an accused, or by the prosecution to rebut the trait; or
2. Evidence of a character trait of peacefulness of the victim offered by the prosecution in a homicide case to rebut evidence that the victim was the aggressor.
(c) Character of witness.—Evidence of the character of a witness, as provided in ss. 90.608-90.610.

(2) OTHER CRIMES, WRONGS, OR ACTS.—
(a) Similar fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is admissible when relevant to prove a material fact in issue, including, but not limited to, proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, but it is inadmissible when the evidence is relevant solely to prove bad character or propensity.

Offline French pug

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2012, 06:59:33 AM »
Thanks. I didn't think it did but when I read it on a lawyers blog on another site I wondered if I was wrong or if maybe Florida was different.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #18 on: September 19, 2012, 07:42:16 PM »
As I've mentioned previously, in Florida self-defense cases, specific acts by the victim aren't generally admissible unless the defendant was aware of them. Only the general reputation of the victim within his community is admissible to establish a propensity for violence.

There's a backdoor that allows reference to specific acts, if the state seeks to establish the victim's good character. The prosecution's character witnesses can be cross examined concerning their awareness of specific acts, on the theory that the questions are for the purpose of assessing the witnesses' qualifications for their opinions, rather than to introduce the acts, themselves, into evidence. (I've actually only read cases where that exception was used against the defendant, but presumably it would apply the other way.)

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #19 on: September 19, 2012, 09:43:48 PM »
mjw, there are two different rules in self defense cases. I explained it up thread.

See the line of cases citing Williams v. State, 982 So. 2d 1190; 2008 Fla

Quote
An exception to the rule that character evidence is
inadmissible "permits an accused to use character
evidence to show that the victim of a crime was the
aggressor and that the accused acted in self-defense."
Hedges v. State, 667 So. 2d 420, 422 (Fla. 1st DCA
1996). To utilize this exception, "the defendant's prior
knowledge of the victim's reputation is not necessary."
Smith v. State, 606 So. 2d 641, 643 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992)
(citing Banks v. State, 351 So. 2d 1071, 1072 (Fla. 4th
DCA 1977)).

Please don't confuse things, especially without cites. And please state your legal analysis as your opinion so people don't assume it is correct.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2012, 12:43:33 AM »
mjw, there are two different rules in self defense cases. I explained it up thread.

See the line of cases citing Williams v. State, 982 So. 2d 1190; 2008 Fla

Please don't confuse things, especially without cites. And please state your legal analysis as your opinion so people don't assume it is correct.

Sorry if anyone was confused, but I didn't believe I was offering my own legal analysis; I thought I was offering a summary of Florida case law, inadequate though it may have been. I've included cites when I've previously talked about this. As far as cites, well, let's see ... how 'bout Williams v. State and the cases it cites.

In Williams the court was considering whether specific acts, of which the defendant was aware, should be admitted to show the defendant's reasonable apprehension. In line with my above comment, it said it should have been admitted. The opinion cites Hedges v. State. Hedges says:

Quote
To prove the victim's dangerous character, evidence either of the victim's reputation for violence or of specific prior acts of violence is admissible, when the defendant knew of the victim's violent acts or of his violent reputation at the time of the alleged offense. Such evidence tends to show that the defendant acted in self-defense. Smith v. State, 606 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992). Evidence of prior specific acts of violence by the victim is admissible because it is relevant "to reveal the reasonableness of the defendant's apprehension at the time of the incident." Id. at 642-43, citing Quintana v. State, 452 So.2d 98, 100 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984).

Williams also cites Smith v. State. Smith held:

Quote
In Florida, evidence of the dangerous character of the victim is admissible to show, or as tending to show, that the defendant acted in self-defense. Garner v. State, 28 Fla. 113, 136, 9 So. 835, 841 (1891). Thus, when self-defense is raised, evidence of the victim's reputation is admissible to disclose his or her propensity for violence and the likelihood that the victim was the aggressor, while evidence of prior specific acts of violence by the victim is admissible to reveal the reasonableness of the defendant's apprehension at the time of the incident. Quintana v. State, 452 So.2d 98, 100 (Fla. 1st DCA 1984) (reversing first-degree murder conviction, because defendant erroneously precluded from offering reputation and specific-act evidence relative to self-defense claim). See also Hager v. State, 439 So.2d 996, 997 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983); Banks v. State, 351 So.2d 1071, 1072 (Fla. 4th DCA), cert. denied, 354 So.2d 986 (Fla. 1977); Williams v. State, 252 So.2d 243 (Fla. 4th DCA), cert. denied, 255 So.2d 682 (Fla. 1971); §§ 90.404 & .405, Fla. Stat. (Supp. 1990 & 1989); Charles W. Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 404.6 (1992 ed.). If reputation evidence is offered to show the victim's conduct, the defendant's prior knowledge of the victim's reputation is not necessary. Banks, 351 So.2d at 1072. If, however, character evidence is offered to prove the reasonableness of the defendant's apprehension, prior knowledge of the specific-act violence is necessary. Id.
(My emphasis.)

To summarize:
1) Reputation evidence is allowed to show propensity, and does not require the defendant's prior knowledge.
2) Evidence of specific acts is allowed to show the victim's reasonable apprehension, and requires the defendant's prior knowledge.

Also see another Williams v. State, Williams v. State, 252 So. 2d 243 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971) for a detailed discussion of Florida's rules for character evidence in self-defense cases.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2012, 12:47:04 AM by MJW »

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2012, 01:28:20 AM »
2) Evidence of specific acts is allowed to show the victim's defendant's reasonable apprehension, and requires the defendant's prior knowledge.

Offline DarkSkiesRbest

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2012, 02:35:12 AM »
If you think gz "apprehended" trayvon please provide the evidence. Theree is none.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2012, 02:52:52 AM »
If you think gz "apprehended" trayvon please provide the evidence. Theree is none.

I was talking about Florida's law in regard to self defense. I implied nothing about how it applied to the particular facts of the Zimmerman case.

Offline unitron

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2012, 09:24:16 AM »
If you think gz "apprehended" trayvon please provide the evidence. Theree is none.

Y'all are talking about two different definitions for the word "apprehension".

Possibly because the word "apprehension" has more than one definition.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2012, 11:31:06 AM »
Y'all are talking about two different definitions for the word "apprehension".

Possibly because the word "apprehension" has more than one definition.

You're right. I completely missed that.

Offline annoyedbeyond

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #26 on: September 20, 2012, 04:07:59 PM »
1. So who's right? Jeralyn or MJW?

2. My apprehension is that I'll be apprehended by someone who can't read.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #27 on: September 20, 2012, 06:09:05 PM »
So who's right? Jeralyn or MJW?

To the extent Jeralyn disagrees with my point, rather than just thinks I should have provided better support in my original comment, I'll be happy to argue the case law.

Offline MJW

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #28 on: September 20, 2012, 06:39:13 PM »
There's a backdoor that allows reference to specific acts, if the state seeks to establish the victim's good character. The prosecution's character witnesses can be cross examined concerning their awareness of specific acts, on the theory that the questions are for the purpose of assessing the witnesses' qualifications for their opinions, rather than to introduce the acts, themselves, into evidence. (I've actually only read cases where that exception was used against the defendant, but presumably it would apply the other way.)

I found a case: Britton v. State, 928 So. 2d 386 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006).

Quote
Alternatively, Britton argues that even if this testimony was properly excluded as part of her direct case, she should have been allowed to use it after the State "opened the door" by calling the decedent's employer to testify about the decedent's reputation in the community for peacefulness. While we agree that the trial court erred by not allowing the defense to cross-examine the State's rebuttal witness regarding his knowledge of specific acts of violence by the decedent, we recognize the defense accomplished the same end by securing an admission from the witness that he really did not know about the decedent's reputation outside of the workplace. The witness also admitted on cross-examination that he knew nothing about the decedent's home life, and never socialized with him away from the work setting. In light of these concessions, and the extensive testimony from multiple witnesses regarding the decedent's violence outside of the work setting, we find no reasonable possibility that the error contributed to the conviction. See generally State v. DiGuilio, 491 So.2d 1129 (Fla. 1986).

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Trayvon Martin's background
« Reply #29 on: September 20, 2012, 08:00:15 PM »
Yes, Britton is still good law. I don't know why you call it a "back door." It's provided for by the evidence rules and case law, which was my point: in self-defense cases, it is not necessary for the accused to have previously known the victim in order to introduce evidence about the victim to show he was the aggressor. The front door is wide open in this regard.

It's because the issue doesn't go to state of mind (whether GZ was reasonably in fear) but to the victim's actions and whether he was the aggressor.

The Florida Evidence Manual:

Quote
Section 90.404(1)(b) allows evidence of a pertinent trait of character of the victim of a crime to be offered by an accused; or by the prosecution to rebut the trait; or evidence of a character trait of peacefulness of the victim offered by the prosecution in a homicide case to rebut evidence that the victim was the aggressor.

Dwyer v. State, 743 So. 2d 46, 48 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 5th Dist. 1999)

Quote
Generally, evidence of a victim's character is inadmissible, but a defendant who alleges self-defense can show, through the testimony of another witness, that the alleged victim had a propensity for violence, thereby inferring that the alleged victim was the aggressor. Smith v. State, 606 So. 2d 641 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992); see also Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 404.6 (1999 ed.); Graham, Handbook of Florida Evidence § 404.1 (1987).

A defendant's prior knowledge of the victim's reputation for violence is irrelevant, because the evidence is offered to show the conduct of the victim, rather than the defendant's state of mind. Ehrhardt. Accordingly, evidence of one of the victim's reputation for violence was not prohibited by Dwyer's lack of prior knowledge of that victim's character traits. 

 Smith v. State, 606 So. 2d 641, 642-643 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1st Dist. 1992)

Quote
Florida permits a defendant in a criminal case to introduce evidence of the violent reputation or character of a victim providing there is a showing of self defense on the part of the defendant. Hodge v. State, 315 So.2d 507 (Fla. 1st DCA 1975). One legitimate basis for the admission of such evidence is for the purpose of showing that the victim was the first aggressor. Fine v. State, 70 Fla. 412, 70 So. 379 (1915). When a defendant offers evidence for this purpose, it is unnecessary for him to show that he had prior knowledge of the victim's propensities. Banks v. State, 351 So.2d 1071 (Fla. 4th DCA 1977). Pino v. Koelber, 389 So. 2d 1191, 1194 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2d Dist. 1980)

Whether the defense will be allowed to introduce the evidence it discovers depends on the nature of the evidence. Obviously, until the defense knows what information exists, if any, it's impossible to say whether it's admissible. But it is discoverable .

The state filed a response today to the defense subpoenas for school records and did not object per se. It says character evidence as to Trayvon  is inadmissible and cites the jury instruction and the entire chapter 776.   See Paragraph 10.

The state says anything TM did before the day of the shooting is irrelevant and inadmissible and says they didn't know each other beforehand.  The state ignores that such information could come in for the purpose of showing he was the aggressor -- just not to show Zimmerman was reasonably afraid of TM.

Which brings us back to why the school and other records are discoverable and O'Mara was right to subpoena them. They could contain information  that would support GZ;s defense that TM was the aggressor.

 

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