Trayvon Martin texts, photos: Might they change Zimmerman trial?
Trayvon Martin texts, photos – all unflattering – were posted online Thursday by George Zimmerman's defense team. They may yet be ruled inadmissible in court. But they are already making the rounds in the court of public opinion, ahead of Zimmerman's murder trial.
Ultimately, many of the photos and cellphone records of Trayvon Martin released online Thursday by George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys – indicating that the slain teenager smoked marijuana, got into fights at school, and had an interest in, and perhaps access to, guns – may be ruled inadmissible in court. But they are already making the rounds in the court of public opinion, which can influence everything from fundraising efforts to the mind-set of potential jurors in Mr. Zimmerman's murder trial.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Florida vs. George Zimmerman: Case closed?
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Mr. Zimmerman is slated to go on trial in June, accused of killing the 17-year-old Trayvon by shooting him at close range during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense. Trayvon’s family claims Trayvon was minding his own business after stopping at a store near the home he was visiting, and that Zimmerman confronted him without cause.
Zimmerman's defense team, however, on Thursday asked for a six-week delay in the trial. Circuit Judge Debra Nelson is expected to address that request at a pretrial hearing on Tuesday, as well as whether the photos and cellphone records will be admissible in court. She may also consider whether jurors can be told that the autopsy of Trayvon indicated that he had at least a small trace of marijuana in his system.
The judge might decide to wait to decide the admissibility of some of the evidence to see what approach the prosecution takes during the trial, says Eugene O’Donnell, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College in New York and a former prosecutor. “[Prosecutors] have to decide, will they depict [Trayvon] as a law-abiding teen … or not even go there…. The defense may argue that if the government raised the character of the victim, they will have the right of response,” he says.
The defense could also argue that the marijuana evidence is relevant because it could speak to the issue of whether Trayvon’s behavior seemed threatening to Zimmerman on the evening in question, but there is some precedent in Florida case law “that rejects the notion that marijuana makes you more aggressive,” Mr. O’Donnell says.