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Judge: Zimmerman jury can hear about possible trip to buy gun

BLOOMINGTON — The jury considering murder charges against Kirk Zimmerman may hear evidence about a trip he may have made to Indiana to buy a gun days before his former wife was shot, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The state contends Zimmerman traveled to a location near Crawfordsville the day after he received a letter from his ex-wife, Pam Zimmerman, demanding payment of about $4,000 in child-related expenses.

Murder charges accuse Zimmerman of killing his former wife in her east-side Bloomington office on Nov. 3, 2014.

The state is expected to present evidence supporting the claim that Zimmerman left his home around 7 a.m. Oct. 25, 2014, and headed east on Interstate 74 toward Indiana. His car stopped briefly near Crawfordsville before returning to Illinois, according to a motion filed in court in February.

Zimmerman allegedly stopped in Champaign for a few minutes at a recreation center where his daughter and former wife were attending the child's volleyball tournament before driving back to Bloomington, according to the court document.

The jury also may hear about a search of Zimmerman's computer that indicates a Google search for the terms "can I suspend Sirius" and his use of a file deletion software used on his computer after the alleged trip to Indiana.

On Wednesday, Judge Scott Drazewski confirmed his 2017 ruling that in order for the state to present evidence related to the theory of an Indiana gun purchase, prosecutors needed to provide jurors with information on the easy access people may have to guns in Indiana compared to Illinois.

An associate professor from Boston University Metropolitan College provided the gun sales information to jurors Wednesday, testifying that Indiana's gun laws are far less restrictive than those in Illinois. Shae Cronin's testimony followed an hour of argument between Assistant State's Attorney Aaron Fredrick and defense lawyer David Mueller over Cronin's qualification as an expert witness.

No weapon has been found in connection with the death of the 53-year-old victim. Gunshot residue was found on the gearshift of Zimmerman's vehicle, according to police testimony.

Citing a need to avoid what he called "the CSI effect," Drazewski issued another ruling Wednesday that jurors will not view a police re-creation of the path authorities claim Zimmerman's car traveled after he allegedly killed his former wife.

After a morning of arguments without the jury present in Zimmerman’s trial, Drazewski ruled that a test drive conducted by police following the Nov. 3 shooting is inappropriate to show the jury. The videos depict a car similar to Zimmerman's Hyundai Sonata moving from the victim's office at 2103 E. Washington St. to an area on Robinson Street where her phone and wallet were found.

"The re-creation video is out," the judge ruled. 

The judge did approve video collected from cameras at State Farm and two area businesses that show a car on Nov. 3, 2014, that prosecutors claim was Kirk Zimmerman's vehicle as it traveled near where his former wife was killed. 

Drazewski noted the effort in every trial to overcome some jurors' expectations that they will see DNA or other forensic evidence often depicted on TV shows. 

"Good old-fashioned evidence" related to what may have occurred at a crime scene doesn't need to be replaced with enhanced representations, said the judge. The Zimmerman jury will see "what represents real life — not enhanced life" on Nov. 3, 2014, said the judge.

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