Friday, February 23, 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.

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