When Is Evidence of Your Attacker’s Character Admissible In Court?

Hey folks,

During the Zimmerman trial there was considerable consternation among much of the pubic that the trial judge, Debra Nelson, had excluded certain evidence about Trayvon Martin’s past, including his apparent drug use, illegal firearms dealing, passion for “street fighting”, among other pleasant character traits.

Now that the trial has ended in a not guilty verdict Judge Nelson’s evidentiary decisions will never face the scathing reversals they so richly deserve, and I won’t seek to revisit them here. Those decisions do, however, raise some more general evidentiary questions in the context of the law of self-defense. In particular, they raise the question of when, and why, you might be able to introduce into evidence information about the character of the person against whom you used defensive force.

To see my extensive analysis of how character evidence can, and cannot, be introduced into a self-defense trial, take a gander over at my blog post at Legal Insurrection:

When Is Evidence of Your Attacker’s Character Admissible In Court?

In the meantime, don’t forget I’m scheduling my fall Law of Self Defense Seminars right now.  If you’re interested in attending, or being a hosting group, contact us at seminars@lawofselfdefense.com.

–Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


Andrew is currently in the process of planning his Fall 2013 Seminar Tour. This time he’ll be traveling from Boston, down the East coast, and then west to East Texas. Planned stops include (1) the Quantico area in Virginia, (2) Columbia, SC, (3) Atlanta, GA, (4) Houston, TX, (5) San Antonio, TX (6) Austin, TX (7) Dallas, TX, then back to Houston and the return trip back to Boston (with similar stops on the way home). Specific dates are being hashed out as I talk with groups interested in hosting seminars, but the trip will definitely be built around the Gun Rights Policy Conference being held in Houston, TX on September 27, 28, 29–so, which I am attending, so plan on the week before and the week after as likely seminar dates. Anyone interested in hosting or attending a seminar anywhere along that route, please contact me directly via the contact form on my blog to get more information.

Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense,, 2nd Edition” now available at www.lawofselfdefense.com and also at Amazon.com as either a hardcopy or in Kindle version.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense and using #LOSD2, on Facebook,, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.

About the Author

Andrew Branca
Andrew F. Branca, Esq. is currently in his third decade of practicing law, and is an internationally-recognized expert on the law of self-defense of the United States. Andrew is a Guest Lecturer at the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, a former Guest Instructor at the Sig Sauer Academy, an NRA Life-Benefactor Member, and an NRA Certified Instructor. He also teaches lawyers how to argue self-defense cases as a certified instructor with the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) system in numerous states around the country. Andrew is also a host on the Outdoor Channel’s TV show “The Best Defense” and contributor to the National Review Online. Andrew has been quoted as a SME (subject-matter expert) on use-of-force law by the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and many other mainstream media, including nationally syndicated broadcast media. Recently, Andrew won the UC Berkeley Law School debate on “Stand-Your-Ground,” and spoke at the NRA Annual Meeting Law Symposium on self-defense law. He is also a founding member of USCCA’s Legal Advisory Board. In addition to being a lawyer, Andrew is also a competitive handgun shooter, an IDPA Charter/Life member (IDPA #13), and a Master-class competitor in multiple IDPA divisions.

3 Comments on "When Is Evidence of Your Attacker’s Character Admissible In Court?"

  1. I’m about half way through the Law Of Self Defense book by Andrew Branca. It has been very enlightening to me. The author can speak non-legalese thereby making it quite for a non-lawyer type as myself. Lots of good and up to date info here. So far I give it 5 stars!

  2. Thanks for the kind words! 🙂


  3. Andrew, I cannot help myself because I am a spelling nazi, but please change “pubic” to public because… well you do know what pubic means!!

    I think that this story is not finished. I think that Nelson was wrong when she excluded that evidence.

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