Zimmerman Moves To Introduce Pictures and Text Messages On Martin’s Character

trayon-martin-picture1tmgunhandsmWe have a new filing in the trial of George Zimmerman with his counsel demanding to use pictures and text messages from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone. The question will become one of relevance as well as prejudice as Zimmerman’s legal team tries to show that Martin had a violent or criminal disposition.

Some of these pictures in my view can be kept out of the trial. However, the defense has a legitimate right to evidence showing a prior disposition — just as the prosecution has that right. What is striking is that the prosecution wants to introduce a host of pre-statements and actions to paint Zimmerman as a racist or violent individual. However, they oppose such evidence related to Martin. Zimmerman’s defense is that Martin attack him and he wants to show that Martin had problems before that night, including his mother demanding that he leave the house and live with his father.

tmfingerssmallImages like Martin flipping the bird at the camera strike me as prejudicial and best kept out of the trial.

Here is the standard:

90.403 Exclusion on grounds of prejudice or confusion.–Relevant evidence is inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. This section shall not be construed to mean that evidence of the existence of available third-party benefits is inadmissible.

The images come from Martin’s Huawei phone including what may be a self-picture of Martin holding a Smith and Wesson handgun. However, while it appears taken by the person holding the cellphone, there is no proof it is Martin unless the defense has found contemporary witnesses. Other photos show the gun and potted marijuana plants. The defense also wants to introduce evidence that Martin was suspended for fighting from school. This includes texts from November 2011 in which he says that his mother has kicked him out of the house after “da police caught me outta skool.” His friend responds “So you just turning into a lil hoodlum.” Martin responds “Naw, I’m a gangsta.” In other messages, Martin discusses guns like one that asks “U wanna share a .380 w/ (blacked out).”

I do believe that Zimmerman is entitled to introduce prior conduct evidence as is the prosecution. It cannot be one sided. The question is where to draw the line in such pictures and text messages. I do not see how the gun picture can be admitted absent proof that it is Martin holding the gun. Clearly there is a strong argument that it is him since it is his cellphone, but that remains speculative. It does seem to me that the playing field has to be level on the prior conduct evidence. The prosecution can argue that it has a closer nexus to introduce prior conduct related to Zimmerman’s anti-crime views and activities. However, it will also be asking to introduce other evidence.

These are always tough calls for the courts. Clearly both of the characters of these individuals are on trial given the theories of the prosecution and the defense. Young boys often joke of guns and crime and such messages can be misleading. Yet, the defense is claiming that these statements match his conduct on that night. The court could allow the evidence on both sides in and allow opposing counsel to make these points. However, there remains the prejudicial impact on the jury. I would expect that this evidence would be highly influential on some members of the jury.

Where do you think the line should be drawn?


Source: CNN

77 thoughts on “Zimmerman Moves To Introduce Pictures and Text Messages On Martin’s Character”

  1. Barking Dog: Z was on his back getting his head banged into the concrete by punk when the gun went off. Defense of self.

    Well the gun did in fact not go off by itself. He had to get it out from inside his pants.

    All this happened while TM supposedly bashed his head against concrete, which made him almost unconscious, and smothered both mouth and nose. Which for some strange reason leaves none of GZ’s DNA on Trayvon Martin’s hands, if I understand correctly. But then he somehow managed to shoot and at the same time fix Trayvon’s arm, aim carefully so he did not hit his other hand, and shoot.

    And although he shot at close range afterwards he got on top of Trayvon since he wasn’t sure he was dead and tried to arrest him, stretching his arms out. Which doesn’t seem to be the way he was found after. Did he manage to put them back beneath the body after he had done that?

  2. Juris: I must admit, I have been sickened by the way the media has generally reported on this from day one. Zimmerman was vilified from the start.

    But since team Zimmerman took over in feeding the rage or media, you started to enjoy reports?

    Juris: Second, the fact that he did not listen to the 911 dispatcher does not automatically eliminate the self defence theory.

    He did in fact listen and acknowledged the advise after a little delay with: OK. Do you think he followed or searched him after that? If you are in favor of the bashing head against concrete scenario, don’t forget the smothering at the same time, you better also accept he did in fact stop following at that point, only went in the same direction to look for a house number on a different street for the police officers and than returned to his car somewhere else.

    Juris: Third, the victim’s history may very well be relevant, as may be his drug use. If he had 10 prior arrests for assault and battery in the last 2 years, you don’t think that would be relevant to show he has a general disposition for violence?

    This is pretty hypothetical, don’t you think? Fact is, Trayvon Martin did not have 10 prior arrests for assault and battery.

    Juris: Fourth, he is not a murderer if it was justified. And he has a right for the opportunity to present his case to a jury to make that determination. Finally, the fact that you are “tired of this man” is irrelevant.

    Why do you think he waived this opportunity? No one pressured him to give it up.

    He claims he didn’t know the “Stand Your Ground” (Fox Hannity interview) law but seemingly was in absolute disbelieve he could ever be charged and arrested. How does that work? His father and his brother still spread this political conspiracy theory.

    But it seems under the old Florida self-defence law he would have been arrested. Only the “Stand your Ground” law prevented SPD from doing just that. A student of criminal law wouldn’t look into the issue? With my minimal knowledge in law, I find that very, very hard to believe.

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