Marijuana, fights, guns: Zimmerman loses key pretrial battles

CNN News Wire | 5/28/2013, 7:58 a.m.

SANFORD, Flo. -- Trayvon Martin's familiarity with guns, his marijuana use, and fights he may have been in cannot be brought up in George Zimmerman's murder trial, the judge overseeing the case ruled Tuesday.

At the hearing two weeks before the scheduled start of the trial, Judge Debra Nelson handed a series of victories to the prosecution when she barred the defense from introducing some information about Martin.

Defense attorneys argued that some of the evidence could prove crucial in backing up Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, depending on what the prosecution argues.

Certain evidence could ultimately be raised during the trial, however, if it is proven relevant and admissible based on what the prosecution presents, the judge decided.

Nelson left the door open on one issue involving marijuana. Defense attorneys say toxicology tests show Martin had enough THC -- the key active ingredient in marijuana -- in his system to indicate he may have smoked the drug a couple of hours before the shooting. Nelson barred any mention of this from opening statements, but said she will rule later on whether it will be admissible after she hears defense experts' testimony about the marijuana use.

Marijuana use in general can come up during jury selection, the judge said.

The attorneys also cannot bring up Martin's text messages. The defense argued that texts from the day of the shooting show the teen was "hostile." The judge also agreed to block previous text messages from Martin about drugs and a gun.

Zimmerman, who is out on bail, did not appear at the hearing.

He's charged with second-degree murder in the February 26, 2012, shooting. He was a neighborhood watch volunteer when he called 911 reporting "a suspicious person" in the neighborhood, who turned out to be 17-year-old Martin.

Defense: State didn't turn over some evidence
Nelson did agree, however, to a key request from the defense: to hold a hearing on whether the state failed to turn over some evidence.

The defense called Wesley White, a former employee of the state attorney's office, who said the prosecution did not turn over certain photos -- including one of a firearm in someone's hand -- as well as some deleted text messages.

Nelson agreed to subpoena the state IT investigator who allegedly issued a report about the photos and text messages.

But she denied a defense request for a delay in the start of the trial. Jury selection will begin June 10, she said.

Nelson also granted the prosecution's motion to bar evidence about why it took so long to arrest Zimmerman.

She denied a defense motion asking that the jury be taken to the crime scene, and called it "disingenuous" in light of another defense motion requesting anonymity for the jury.

The jurors will remain anonymous and will be referred to by their numbers only, she said.

Nelson set a hearing for Friday on whether the media will be allowed to show their faces.

Judge to rule on screaming heard in 911 calls
Defense attorneys also raised questions Tuesday about an analysis that suggests Martin might be heard screaming in the background of a 911 call just before the shooting.