George Zimmerman Trial: Judge to Rule on Key Evidence as Tension Mounts

PHOTO: Zimmermans defense team reacts to Judge Debra Nelson walking out of court July 9, 2013 as a member of the Zimmerman defense team angrily complained about the long hours and lack of time the defense had to go over evidence it said the prosecution
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The Florida judge presiding over the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman walked out of court as a member of the Zimmerman defense team angrily complained about the long hours and lack of time the defense had to go over evidence it said the prosecution withheld.

"I'm not getting into this," said Judge Debra Nelson, appearing fed up at the building acrimony between both sides. "Court is in recess."

"Judge, I'm not physically able to keep up this pace much longer," responded defense co-counsel Don West as Nelson literally walked out of the courtroom.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense.

Catch up on all the details from the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Tuesday's courtroom tension started to build soon after jurors were dismissed, with both sides sparring over an animation commissioned by the defense that defense attorneys wanted to admit as evidence.

The motion-capture animation was a snapshot of what the defense said happened the night Martin died. The animation showed Martin walking up to Zimmerman and punching him in the face, as well as Martin straddling and punching Zimmerman. It was built using Zimmerman's account of what happened and estimations of witnesses who called 911 about the altercation the night Martin died.

Prosecutor Rich Mantei questioned the animation's creator, Daniel Schumaker, over how the clip was created, calling the animation "speculative and irrelevant evidence."

"They say they use this for the movies," said Mantei, referring to the technology. "Great, this is a murder trial."

Judge Nelson seemed to question the accuracy of the animation, pointing out that certain witnesses did not give precise times about what happened the night of Martin's death and that Martin was using his left hand to punch Zimmerman but was right handed.

Following the animation hearing, the defense moved to submit as evidence text messages made by Martin to his friends in which he talked about fighting. The state argued the text messages had no relevance.

An expert who extracted the texts, Richard Connor, read a few in court. Among them was one in which a female friend was telling Martin that he should stop fighting.

Connor testified that he also found images of a gun and naked teen on Martin's phones. He said he believed the texts and pictures were deleted on purpose.

Defense co-counsel West said the texts and images were "compelling evidence" of Zimmerman's self-defense claim.

"To deny Mr. Zimmerman the right to present this information violates both the Florida and United States Constitution," West argued.

The defense alleged that the prosecution withheld knowledge of the text messages and pictures, and that the defense did not have enough time to review the material.

"I would offer him the opportunity right now to apologize to me for suggesting that I stood by silently with information that I did not have," said prosecutor John Guy during the final minutes of the hearing, which lasted so long the lights in the courthouse temporarily went off.

Nelson is expected to rule Wednesday morning on the admissibility of both the animation and the text messages. She is also expected to look into whether or not the defense violated witness sequestration rules after it was revealed that a defense witness sat in the courtroom against court rules.

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