News & Politics

George Zimmerman's Defense Team Releases Texts and Photos to Fit Their Racist Narrative

"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because of the way he looked?"

Photo Credit: AFP

The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing unarmed teenager Travyon Martin, released dozens of photos and text messages of the 17-year-old murder victim in a seeming effort to portray him as a “gangsta” troublemaker.

It is unclear whether the texts and photos will be permissible in court, though attorneys for Martin’s family claim they represent “irrelevant red herrings.” Zimmerman’s attorneys are expected to use the “evidence” to make insinuations about Martin’s character, as the Zimmerman can be heard in a 911 call accusing the teen of being “up to no good” and “on drugs or something.”

The “evidence,” posted on a website run by Zimmerman’s attorneys, includes text messages from Martin discussing cannabis, a school suspension and a troubled home life, as well as several texts expressing interest in guns. The defense also posted 25 photos of Martin, some previously released on the internet, which include photo of the teen wearing gold teeth and flicking the camera off, as well as a photograph in which he appears to be smoking cannabis.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Martin’s family, noted the irony of Zimmerman’s defense pushing a stereotypical image of Martin in a case already fraught with racial implications.

"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because of the way he looked?" Crump said in a statement obtained by NBC. "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."

One of many striking example of an apparent “red herring” released by Zimmerman’s defense is text messages referring to Martin’s homelife. In one text, from Nov. 22, 2011, he writes, "My mom just told me i gotta mov wit my dad … She just kickd me out." 

Some legal experts say Zimmerman’s defense will have a hard time using the texts and photographs in court, as it resides in the legally murky area of character evidence.

“What does his mom saying he needs to live with his dad for a while say about why he was shot?  Nothing,” Jeff Deen, a former state attorney in Florida, told NBC. “Generally, reputation evidence is not admissible in court.”

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

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