Zimmerman’s defense makes Trayvon Martin’s image an issue

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Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, at left, captured on surveillance video at a Sanford, Florida 7/11 on the day he was killed; an image widely circulated on pro-George Zimmerman blogs; and at right, in a black and white photo that has become iconic after his death. (Photo at right supplied by the Martin family. Photo at left from the evidence released by the State Attorney's Office prosecuting George Zimmerman.)

With his second degree murder trial looming, George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys on Thursday posted several items from discovery in the case, including texts and photos from Trayvon Martin’s cellphone. The words and images — including Martin exchanging text messages with friends, have the potential to be inflammatory. Zimmerman’s attorney calls them a necessary part of discovery in the case. Martin’s family attorneys call them an attempt to smear the dead teen and taint the jury.

What’s clear is that the Zimmerman trial promises to be, in part, a battle of images — a fight to shape the perceptions of jurors about the then-28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer and the 17-year-old high school student, both of whom have blemishes in their backgrounds. The question: how much of what is in those backgrounds, of the defendant and the deceased, are relevant to the trial, in which Zimmerman is claiming self-defense.

Texts show a teen’s bravado, vulnerability

The texts, dated between November and December of 2011 and written in typical teenage shorthand, include a conversation between Martin and an unknown friend in which Martin implies he’s being “kicked out” of his home by his mother, Sybrina Fulton, and that he will have to move in with his father, Tracy Martin. “She just kicked me out :( ” reads one text message, dated November 22, 2011. He also texted about witnessing a fight at school and a teacher blaming him for it.

In another text in November, 2011, Martin referred to being in a fight himself, in which the other person “got more hits” because he had him on the ground.

In texts on February 14, 2012, Martin responds to an unknown person who asks why he’s not in school. “Suspended,” he texts, later adding that his mother doesn’t want him home “caus she think ima get in mo trouble.” Martin lived with his mother, Sybrina Fulton, in Miami. His father, Tracy Martin, a truck driver, lived in Miami too, but frequently traveled to Sanford, Florida, near Orlando, to visit his fiancée and her son, who was several years younger than Trayvon.

That month, Martin and his father would go to Sanford, where they stayed at the fiancée’s townhome in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community. Martin had been suspended for two weeks from Michael C. Krop high school in Miami, after traces of marijuana were found in his backpack. His redacted school records were also part of the document release by Zimmerman’s defense team.

On February 17, just over a week before he was killed, Martin exchanged texts with a person identified in the transcripts as Witness 8, the young woman said to have been Martin’s girlfriend, who told police she was on the phone with Martin just before his confrontation with Zimmerman on February 26th. “I got 1 mo week” he texts.

According to the transcripts, on February 18, Martin texts Witness 8 saying, “hey bae.” He texts “I’m out Outback” — and asks what she had eaten,  whether she’s got heat, and if her dad was coming over. He later texts in shorthand: “Nd b safe bae ion need ntn hapn 2 u” … “-_- Bae bullets dnt hav eyes.”

The texts are filled with teenage bravado, with Martin referencing “hiding weed,” but also vulnerability. One text says “be safe n stay focus,” followed by “I love you.”

On February 20th, Martin texts that he’s getting ready to leave for Orlando, and that he’s going for “a week.”

In a series of texts the following day, which appear to be between him and his father, Tracy Martin, a text counsels Martin to “show much respect to (name redacted” and adjust to my Lady & (name redacted)… Show them that you a good kid and you want positive things around you,” seemingly referring to the elder Martin’s fiancée and her son.

“Be a big brother and not a DONKEY …. LOVE DAD,” the next text reads.

Some of the texts contain apparent references to guns, including two messages Martin received on February 10th and 18th, reading: “you want a 22 revolver.”

Also released by the defense: photos said to be from Martin’s phone that include pictures of a handgun, what look like marijuana plants, and Martin wearing a replaceable gold tooth “grill,” extending a middle finger to the camera and blowing smoke out of his mouth. The photos were being widely reprinted in the media on Thursday, and Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, appeared on the Fox News channel to discuss the document release, which according to the Zimmerman defense website, also included videos from Martin’s phone and from his Youtube channel.

Next: ‘Weapons’ in defense ‘quiver’, or tainting the jury pool?