Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Defense releases photos, texts of Trayvon Martin

ORLANDO — Data released Thursday by the defense from slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin's cellphone includes texts with a friend about fighting, smoking pot and being forced to move out of his mother's house because of trouble at school, as well as photos of a gun and what looks to be a potted marijuana plant.

A hearing next week will decide if the information can be used at the trial for George Zimmerman, who is charged with fatally shooting the unarmed 17-year-old last year during a confrontation at a gated community in Sanford. Prosecutors want the negative evidence omitted, but Zimmerman's defense attorney said if they try to portray his client as the antagonist and Martin as the victim, he wants to show the jury that Martin has talked about fighting before.

"If they had suggested that Trayvon is nonviolent and that George is the aggressor, I think that makes evidence of the fighting he has been involved with in the past relevant," said Mark O'Mara.

Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense, and his trial starts next month. O'Mara also filed a motion Thursday asking for a delay in the start of the trial so the defense team can talk at length with an expert witness for the prosecution.

The photos released by Zimmerman's defense team also show Martin blowing smoke and extending his middle finger to the camera.

In the text messages, Martin tells a friend that his mother has told him he needs to move in with his father since he was caught skipping school. He also talks with a friend about smoking "weed."

In another section, he describes being in a fight where his opponent got more hits than he did in the first round.

Prosecutors have filed a motion asking Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to prevent the photos, texts and other personal information from being used at the trial. The hearing is set for Tuesday when the judge also will consider the motion to delay the trial.

Attorneys for Martin's parents said in a statement that the photos and texts were irrelevant to the trial and could pollute the jury pool.

"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because (of) the way he looked?" they said. "If so, this stereotypical and closed-minded thinking is the same mind-set that caused George Zimmerman to get out of his car and pursue Trayvon, an unarmed kid who he didn't know."

As for the delay, O'Mara said he needed more time to review the qualifications of a prosecution witness with an expertise in speech identification. O'Mara said prosecutors only made him aware of the expert a short time ago. The expert could be used to testify whose voices were on 911 calls that captured the fatal fight between Zimmerman and Martin.

O'Mara said in an interview that he needed another month or two to prepare.

O'Mara also said in the interview that he is going to ask a judge to sequester not only the jury but the jury pool in the upcoming trial. That may involve sequestering 500 potential jurors in order to find six people who can serve on the jury, O'Mara said.

Comments
Hernando County Commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

Hernando County Commissioner arrested on prostitution charges

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Commissioner Nick Nicholson, 71, was arrested midday Thursday by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on multiple prostitution charges.Nicholson was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center on one count of operat...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Child, 3, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

Child, 3, hospitalized after being found in New Port Richey pond

Deputies said they were dispatched to a pond behind a home in the 4700 block of Crestknoll Drive on Thursday afternoon.It appeared the child wandered off and that the incident was accidental, deputies said. An adult caretaker was watching the child, ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as CEO

CLEARWATER — A longtime IBM executive is becoming the new leader of Tampa Bay’s largest public company. Tech Data announced Richard "Rich" Hume as its new CEO effective June 6. Hume joined Tech Data two years ago and is currently the chief operating ...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

St. Petersburg Police on Thursday closed two assisted living facilities, citing "deplorable conditions," including no running water. The facilities are run by Tampa Bay Behavioral Health, located at 3434 Second Ave. S and 3418 Second Ave. S, accordin...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

FHP: Distracted driver plunges more than 50 feet off I-275 in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A distracted driver from Pinellas Park walked away unscathed after his car plunged 50 feet off Interstate 275.Thomas Highhouse, 61, of Pinellas Park, was driving his 2016 Chevy Camero along Interstate 275 around 11:10 a.m. when he lo...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Hundreds mourn Durant High athlete killed at Brandon gas station

Hundreds mourn Durant High athlete killed at Brandon gas station

PLANT CITY — Many remembered Durant High School football player Grover Wills, 18, for his talent on the field, but almost as many remembered his penchant for bursting into dance and song. After practice or on team trips, Wills would mesmerize those a...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

Bay area has ‘hit show’ again, thanks to USF

For the first time since its season commenced, the USF baseball team enters a weekend as the Bulls' feature sports attraction.Basketball ended last month, and spring football ended last Saturday, meaning would-be baseball fans no longer have reason t...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

The Mallex Smith effect can take effect for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Mallex Smith has style.Effervescent personality. Pop culture hipness. Sense of fashion with accoutrements.Now the Rays are going to find out if he has game.More specifically, enough game to be a front-line outfielder, even an i...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Column: Some facts and figures you might not know about civil rights restoration in Florida

After U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled Florida’s process for restoring felons’ civil rights was unconstitutional in early February, he allowed me to file a friend of the court brief to assist the court as it considered possible solutions. The br...
Updated: 1 hour ago
LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

LA Fitness tones up Hillsborough location

When LA Fitness on West Hillsborough Ave. reopens mid-summer, it will have undergone a $5 million renovation and a complete transformation. Closed since November 2017, the 10-year-old facility was completely torn down and is still undergoing construc...
Updated: 1 hour ago