The shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is an excellent case study where Forensic ballistics evidence was able to push through emotions and opinions. Most of my high school students have never heard of the case, which is great because we get to really discuss the evidence before they find out the verdict!
This resource is best used after students have an understanding of how ballistics evidence works. They will see the testimony of the Forensic Firearms Expert from the actual trial. She will briefly discuss the differences between the bullet and the cartridge case, the firing mechanism of Zimmerman’s gun, how a bullet is linked to a particular gun, and the significance of GSR (gunshot residue) evidence.
George Zimmerman was charged with 2nd degree murder for the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense, while Martin’s family (and much of the public) accuse him of racially profiling Martin, who was unarmed and walking home from a convenience store. They claim Zimmerman stalked, attacked, and shot Martin needlessly.
The gunshot residue evidence is the highlight of the trial. The forensic firearms expert demonstrates that GSR patterns on Martin’s sweatshirt are consistent with a contact shot. Students will then hear from the pathologist who did the autopsy. He testifies that the GSR pattern on Martin’s chest is that of ‘intermediate range’ between 2 and 4 inches. What does that mean? You will have to watch and see!
Zimmerman Case Study Resource includes:
- Case Study Reading: 3 pages with background information about the case
- Case Study Notes: 2 pages to guide students while reading
- Zimmerman Trial Notes: 2 pages of guided questions, includes links to 30 minutes of video from the news, day 8 of the Zimmerman trial with the forensics ballistics expert testimony, testimony from the pathologist who completed Martin’s autopsy, and a clip of the jury reading the verdict
- Full Answer Keys to both notes sheets!
- Additional Evidence: half a page of reading, presenting additional evidence from the trail
- Google Slides with images of Geroge Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin
- OPTIONAL EXTENSION: Explore the role of the media in the case! Students are given half a page of reading and see images used by the media. They evaluate and discuss the truthfulness of the media’s statements / portrayal of the case, as well as the impact media may have had on the public and on the jury.
Everything in this resource can be used and completed digitally!
Click to see a preview of the Zimmerman Case Study.
Here are what some Happy Teachers have to say about this Zimmerman Case Study in our Teachers Pay Teachers store:
My students liked this addition to our legal aspects material. They really liked that it was a real life example of our criminal justice system at work – Katelyn W. January 29, 2023
My students enjoyed this real life case study. The links to the news/court footage was especially intriguing to them and useful for our discussions. – Lindsay F. May 5, 2021
Worked very well with online kiddos and in-class kids. I used it as a group activity after we had gone over Ballistic Evidence. The whole class was totally engaged. – Barbra B. April 27, 2021
I will be keeping this as an addition to my ballistics unit for years to come! -Mrs. Jan March 2, 2022
More Ballistics Resources!
- Teach your students Forensic Ballistics Evidence with this NO PREP resource. Students can complete their ballistics notes independently, or through class lecture – or both! 28 Slides, 5 pages of notes, and 10 question review.
- Solve a Murder Case! A fun Ballistics Evidence Activity for your students! Can they use their skills to solve the murder of Dillian Dollar? Focuses on bullet striations evidence!
- The Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman Case Study walks students through the gunshot residue evidence presented by the forensic firearm expert and the pathologist at the Zimmerman trial.
- Bullet Trajectory Learn and Do! Students learn how to analyze and measure bullet holes to determine the angle of trajectory. Resource includes Google Slides, guided notes, a digital activity and a hands on activity!
- The JFK Cold Case video guide is no-prep, print and go! Perfect for a substitute. The video is an hour long and covers information about the gun, ammunition, trajectory, and autopsy evidence from the Kennedy assisination. Is the JFK assisination the work of a conspiracy? Ballistics experts test fire the gun to find out!
- Ballistics Review game! No prep, fun and quirky game that doubles as a study guide!
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