Is Zimmerman on Trial, or Marijuana and Trayvon?
George Zimmerman’s lawyers spent part of the day Wednesday trying to convey to the jury that he is really a good guy. Zimmerman, 29, is the neighborhood vigilante and wannabe cop who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in the heart in a Sanford, Florida townhouse community in February 2012.
The trial is full of signs of just how far Floridians have gone off the deep end when it comes to guns. At one point this week, Zimmerman’s lead attorney Mark O’Mara used an expert witness, former cop turned private eye Dennis Root, to posit that because Zimmerman discharged his 9mm Kel-Tec pistol into Martin’s heart only once, this was an indication he had no spite, ill-will, or hatred toward Martin.
That prompted prosecutor John Guy, in cross-examination, to ask Root whether he’d heard Zimmerman’s remarks about Martin on the widely reported 911 call Zimmerman made just minutes before he shot Martin.
“Did you hear him call Trayvon Martin an asshole?” Guy asked Root. “Did you hear him call Trayvon Martin a fucking punk?”
Root said yes, he had heard him say those things. Presumably he’d also heard Zimmerman say another gem from the 911 tape: “They always get away.”
Besides puffing up their client, Zimmerman’s defense lawyers have been doing their best (which hasn’t been very good) to demonize Trayvon Martin. Of course, it’s a typical defense tactic in a homicide case to, in effect, put the victim on trial, if they think doing so will persuade jurors to acquit.
During a hearing without the jury Tuesday afternoon that lasted until 10:00 p.m., O’Mara and his co-counsel Don West tried their damnedest to convince Judge Debra Nelson to let them introduce several text messages and a photo that investigators found in Martin’s cellphone as evidence. The texts referred to a fistfight Martin got into at school. That information was relevant, West argued, because it would show jurors that Martin had an ability to fight and was proud to have given his opponent a bloody nose. The photograph showed a hand wrapped around a pistol.
Judge Nelson nixed the texts and photograph because they didn’t meet admissibility rules -- there was no way to prove that Martin actually authored the texts or where the photo came from. “A seven-year-old could have accessed that phone!” she said in a huff toward the end of a hearing.
Despite O’Mara and West’s best efforts, the biggest problem for Zimmerman’s self-defense argument remained that Martin, aside from his fists and feet, was armed only with only a soft drink, a cellphone, and a bag of Skittles.
Another frailty in the defense is that Zimmerman, although he emerged with a broken nose, was not really all that terrifyingly roughed up in the fight to justify plugging someone through the heart.
One small victory for Zimmerman’s lawyers -- at least they thought so -- was the judge’s decision to let them tell jurors about a toxicology report signaling that Martin had smoked pot in the 24 hours before the incident. It’s hard to imagine jurors falling for that one, in a land where a third of the population has used marijuana, and most believe it should be legal.
Maybe Zimmerman's lawyers sensed their folly, because they ended up not introducing any toxicology information as evidence. Zimmerman, however, seemed miffed that they didn't. At the end of trial proceedings on Wednesday, courtroom audio captured him asking one of his lawyers, "Where's the marijuana?" (as Mediaite reported), an apparent reference to the toxicology record. The jury had been dismissed, and Judge Nelson had just finished querying Zimmerman whether he wanted his lawyers to call any more witnesses, to which he replied no.
But this trial isn’t about self-defense or reefer madness. It’s about mad vigilantism. Let’s hope the jury gets that.
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