A motions hearing is set on Tuesday, May 28 in the case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Attorney Mark O’ Mara and the Zimmerman defense team disclosed documents on Thursday that they may attempt to admit into evidence showing photos, texts and social media of Trayvon Martin to display his alleged marijuana use, issues with school suspensions and other aspects of his personal life. The defense alleges that they will only attempt to introduce the items if the State attempts to make the case about Trayvon Martin’s character. Excuse me for mentioning but the only side that is attempting to make the case about Trayvon Martin’s character is the defense. And the only way that the defense can add any validity to its self-defense claim other than with the defendant’s testimony is to make Trayvon Martin out to be a bad character.
In order for the Zimmerman defense to make out a somewhat credible case of self- defense in the court room before a jury, they must attempt to vilify the victim. The defendant’s own credibility, should he take the stand, was largely destroyed over a year ago following his bail hearing, when it was discovered that his misrepresentations about his pauper financial status, along with his wife’s testimony were flat out lies. He was not someone in dire financial distress as he had led even his own attorneys to believe but someone with online contributions totaling over $100,000. That little scheme caused the defendant to have his bail revoked and later reset at a higher amount.
In order for the defense to depict the facts as one of self- defense, they must first overcome the credibility of the defendant, if he takes the stand. And one way around that issue is to portray the victim, Trayvon Martin as a “bad actor”, a pot smoking, school missing, up to no good teenager. The state has not attempted to portray Trayvon Martin as anyone other than a 17 year old walking en route to the home of his father’s girlfriend, carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea, wearing a hoodie, when he was spotted by Zimmerman, marked for suspicious activity, pursued and shot to death.
This case is about the night of February 26, 2012 and whether George Zimmerman armed with a gun committed second degree murder or had a legal right to shoot Trayvon Martin. It is a circumstantial case on the part of the state. No state’s witness is an eyewitness to the crime. The evidence will mostly consist of experts’ reenacting the crime scene and audio tapes, photographs of the scene, audio tapes, DNA evidence and witnesses who overheard or saw parts of the altercation. There appears to be no value to the case to be learned from school records, social media, texts or personal photographs of the victim before the night of his untimely death, unless the defense wants to confuse the jury or sway them with “red herrings”. In law school, these other items that have no bearing on a case are commonly referred to as “red herrings”, meaning they are much ado about nothing. And sometimes, that’s what a defense team has to work with to get its point across to the jury.
In the final analysis on both sides of this case, it must be about the night of February 26, 2012. Whether the defendant is a good person or the victim is made out to be a bad person, all that matters is what happened on that fateful night over a year ago. If the evidence speaks to the events on the night of February 26, then justice will prevail.
Judge Debra Nelson, the presiding judge, will hear arguments on some controverted evidence and other matters on Tuesday, May 28. On May 23, the defense filed another request to postpone the trial. The trial is presently scheduled for June 10. Stay tuned for more developments on the case as they occur.
Debbie Hines is a Washington, DC based practicing trial attorney, former Maryland prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court bar who is an expert in criminal law, high profile criminal cases, gun laws, death penalty cases and voting laws. She often addresses legal issues at the intersection of race and crime.