In February 2012 George Zimmerman, a security operative, shot dead Trayvon Martin. Trayvon was 17-years-old and George 28. In Florida, where the killing took place, a law on shooting in events deemed self-defense meant that George Zimmerman did not initially face any criminal charges for killing Trayvon Martin. The local police did not want to act and were taken to task.
The wrongful murder of Trayvon raised issues and became a cause. In the end police arrested George, released him on bail and a court case is finally on the horizon.
Friday there was news that next week Zimmerman's defense team will attend a hearing in the hope that texts and email messages belonging to Martin will be admissible as evidence in the trial. The defense want to use the items to prove that Martin was not the `angel` nor law-abiding young man many have painted him.
As already stated this case raises many issues. As a British writer it actually baffles me. Why has this case taken so long to come to court and how come so much evidence is in the public domain?
The fact that a murder victim is facing a character assassination before the trial of his killer is odd to say the least. In the UK if details of the texts and messages of a victim were already described in the media that would make them inadmissible evidence.
Whether or not they are allowed as evidence, the jury will know of their existence and their nature. According to Sky News:
They include conversations 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 images of a gun and what looks to be a potted marijuana plant.
Mark O'Mara one of George's lawyers argues that:
If they had suggested that Trayvon is non-violent and that George is the aggressor, I think that makes evidence of the fighting he has been involved with in the past relevant.
The sky report includes some details of the texts, messages and photos showing:
Trayvon blowing smoke and extending his middle finger to the camera.
In the text messages, the teenager tells a friend that his mother has told him he needs to move in with his father after "da police caught me outta skool".
"So you just turning into a lil hoodlum," his friend tells him.
"Naw, I'm a gangsta," he replies.
He also talks with a friend about smoking weed and guns.
"U wanna share a .380 w/ (blacked out)," another text message reads
Shocking or part of many teenagers lives in 2013? My 63-year-old law-abiding husband has been known to stick his middle finger up at the world, so what?
Mr O'Mara omits vital facts such as, it was George chasing a young man, after law enforcement officers advised him not to. It was George brandishing a gun which would make any person run scared and overreact when cornered. Trayvon may or may not have lashed out but wouldn't you? It was George who pulled the trigger.
Whilst the above slurs against Trayvon may not paint a picture of every teenager it is not an unusual view. In teenage conversations there are always elements of bravado as they bow to peer pressure. All of the accusations above are not illegal, except for those relating to marijuana but that may depend on the US State.
All that they prove is that Trayvon was a rebellious teenager at times, especially when he sent and received those texts and messages. Was he going through one of those testing teenage times or was he a `wrong 'un` deserving to be written off as a bad apple?
George was no angel either and, much as his defense may want to carry out a character assassination of Trayvon, none of those accusations justify the young man's murder.
Is the punishment of death for a rebellious teenager, a pot smoker, one who may have robbed in the past, appropriate? Any criminal offences committed by Trayvon, if they exist, would have been as a child. The USA may choose to try some children as young as 12 as adults but the legal age in the US remains 21.
Should the texts and messages be allowed as evidence? If they are do they make any difference to the fact that George murdered Trayvon? Do gun and drug texts and emails show Trayvon Martin deserved to die? No.
Justice for Trayvon is long overdue.
Sources and resources:
Related reading by this writer:
George Zimmerman re-enacts Trayvon Martin murder
Florida Unlawful killing Trayvon Martin