Trayvon Martin’s DNA Not Found on George Zimmerman’s Gun: What About Zimmerman’s Self-Defense Claim?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 23, 2012

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Trayvon Martin’s DNA was not found on the grip of George Zimmerman’s gun, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report released by the Duval County state attorney Wednesday, September 19, 2012. However, the significance of the presence or absence of Martin’s DNA on the grip of the gun is a matter that is, at this point, unclear.

The Meaning of the Absence of Martin’s DNA on the Gun

Despite reports that the lack of evidence of Martin’s DNA on the grip of the gun somehow indicates that there was no struggle between Zimmerman and Martin, the absence of Martin’s DNA doesn’t seem to offer proof that there was no struggle.

What Zimmerman Actually Said About the Struggle With Martin

Although it obviously isn’t clear at this point what evidence will be presented at Zimmerman’s trial, thus far no report has indicated that Zimmerman ever claimed that Martin actually succeeded in getting his hand on the grip of the gun, or in touching the gun at all.

George Zimmerman claimed at the time, and has apparently maintained, that during the struggle Martin took his hand from Zimmerman’s mouth, and felt Martin “slide it down (his) chest,” toward the gun Zimmerman had holstered at his hip.

During his interrogation February 27, 2012, Zimmerman only claimed that Martin had reached for the gun. He indicated that he had felt Martin reach toward the gun and said further, “I just pinched (Martin’s) arm and I grabbed my gun and I aimed it at him and I fired one shot.”

The report also determined that Zimmerman’s DNA was on the holster of the gun, but it did not determine whether Martin touched Zimmerman’s holster. Even this fact doesn’t show that there was no struggle between Zimmerman and Martin. In fact, lack of DNA on the gun or holster is consistent with Zimmerman’s statements about how the struggle occurred.

Zimmerman’s Self-Defense Claim

There has also been speculation that, due to the lack of evidence that Martin grabbed the gun, Zimmerman would be unable to use a self-defense theory in his trial. This also seems to be arguable, if Zimmerman’s testimony of how the physical altercation occurred is generally accepted by the jury.

Under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, a person may use deadly force against another person to the extent that the person defending themselves reasonably believes that deadly force is necessary to prevent themselves from being seriously injured or killed.

Under the law, therefore, it is possible that feeling Martin’s hand slide toward the gun in his holster as he laid on the ground with Martin on top of him could be enough to convince a jury that Zimmerman was reasonable in his belief that Martin was about to grab the gun and use it to shoot Zimmerman.

Possible Effects of the Absence of DNA on Zimmerman’s Claim

Prosecutors will presumably attempt to convince the jury that since Martin’s hand never actually touched the gun, Zimmerman’s belief that he needed to shoot Martin to prevent himself from being injured or killed was unreasonable.

It is true that aside from whether a jury believes Zimmerman’s story at all, whether a jury thinks Zimmerman’s belief that he was in imminent danger was reasonable may be a very important point in deciding whether Zimmerman was defending himself when he shot Martin.

Nonetheless, it is probably premature to assume that since Martin’s DNA wasn’t on Zimmerman’s gun grip, the jury couldn’t find that Zimmerman reasonably believed Martin might be trying to grab the gun and use it.

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