by Laura Savage
The trial of George Zimmerman begins today with jury selection. Zimmerman, former neighborhood watch captain, has been free on $1 million bail after being charged with the killing of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. During that time Zimmerman’s attorneys have launched an all-out war on Trayvon Martin’s credibility as if the deceased teenager were on trial.
Zimmerman’s legal team is asking the judge to enter into evidence information from Martin’s Facebook page showing him smoking weed and posting about his suspension from school due to fighting. Now, I’m not saying that these issues aren’t telling about Martin’s troubles as a teenager. I do, however, want to know what either of these things have to do with George Zimmerman being guilty of killing Trayvon Martin?
The defense’s rationale is that the insinuation of Martin as an angry weed smoking Black teenager will influence the jury and the judge about his actions the night he was killed. It is the same tired stereotype that society attaches to every Black man, young and old. They are a menace and a threat to society.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Martin family attorney, Jasmine Rand of Park’s and Crumps law firm, stated: “This case doesn’t occur in a vacuum, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves as legal professionals has an impact that lasts beyond the Trayvon Martin case itself and has larger societal implications. A lot of the evidence that [Zimmerman’s defense attorneys] brought forward is completely irrelevant, and it’s a very clear attempt to assassinate Trayvon Martin’s character publicly in the media by mischaracterizing certain evidence [cell phone text messages, drug use of the teen and school suspension history and a video].”
The legal team recently released a video, which went viral online, claiming that it showed two friends of Martin beating a homeless man up. In reality it was a video of two homeless people fighting each other over a bicycle – a purposeful and blatant lie designed to discredit Martin and paint him as a Black teenage thug.
Obviously Zimmerman’s defense team is desperate. By releasing misleading information that paints Martin as trouble, they effectively persuade the public, jurors and the judge that Martin was responsible – or at the very least complicit – in his own death. Not only are Zimmerman’s attorneys, Mark O’Mara and Don West, engaging in a public bullying of Martin and his legacy, they are betting on the public’s innate skepticism of “innocent Black males” being killed by whites.
And yes, Zimmerman is rightly being categorized as white. His father is white and he is given all the luxuries of white privilege when people see him in person and on paper.
Federal court Judge Debra Nelson has restricted mention of text messaging history, drug history and school records from being mentioned during opening statements. This doesn’t go far enough because it leaves open the possibility of them being entered as evidence later in the trial.
Clearly, O’Mara and West are willing to fabricate and tamper with evidence to cast a better light on their client, and allowing circumstantial evidence that doesn’t pertain to the case to be admissible at any time during the trial is an outrage.
O’Mara and West claim that they will only use the evidence if the prosecution attempts to attack Zimmerman’s character. More bullying! Are they threatening to throw salt in the wounds of the teenager and his family if the prosecution does its job by highlighting the kind of man Zimmerman is?
He followed Trayvon Martin because he “looked suspicious.” He didn’t question what Martin was doing in the complex to clarify whether he belonged. No, he jumped to conclusions as many people do when it involves a Black male. They are automatically suspect.
So, if the prosecution dares to remind the jury of Zimmerman’s history of over-reacting to people he doesn’t know or mentions his numerous calls to police or the comments made by fellow complex residents about his obsessive and disturbing behavior – all of which are relevant because Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, not the other way around – then they will attempt to legally discredit Trayvon Martin to the jury. Hmm … that does appear to be a threat.
It’s a threat that needs to be blown out of court by the prosecution. Trayvon Martin is already gone and his life was taken by George Zimmerman. There need not be any second guessing about reputation because the defense has already attacked it publicly.
Laura Savage is a Bay Area-based freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.