The defense team for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer on trial for shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has released a series of text messages and pictures from Martin’s cell phone referencing fighting, guns and smoking marijuana.
Zimmerman, 29, is facing second-degree murder charges. A hearing next week will determine if the evidence is admissible in court.
In text messages the 17-year-old spoke of smoking pot, fighting, being suspended from school and being forced to move out of his mother’s house. Zimmerman’s attorneys released 25 photos, including many of the teen blowing smoke out of his nose and mouth. In one, Martin holds his gold teeth and his middle finger up to the camera. Another picture shows a hand holding a gun, but it is unclear whose hand it is.
The evidence is clearly meant to cast Martin in a different light. In a text 12 days before his death, Martin tells a friend he was suspended from school for fighting.
Zimmerman is accused of shooting Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 as the teen was returning to his father’s apartment in Sanford, Fla. He has said he approached the teen, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, because he appeared suspcious. He pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, claiming that Martin attacked him.
Character evidence must follow strict rules to be admissible in a court, said former assistant state attorney in Florida Jeff Deen.
“What does his mom saying he needs to live with his dad for a while say about why he was shot? Nothing,” Deen said. “Generally, reputation evidence is not admissible in court.”
An attorney for Martin’s family said the cell phone data is “irrelevant.”
"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because of the way he looked?" said attorney Benjamin Crump in a statement Thursday. "If so, this stereotypical and closed-minded thinking is the same mindset that caused George Zimmerman to get out of his car and pursue Trayvon, an unarmed kid who he didn't know. The pretrial release of these irrelevant red herrings is a desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool."
Pictures via Daily Mail: