Mark O’Mara is doing a masterful job of painting Trayvon Martin as a thug who deserved to die at the hands of his client George Zimmerman. Some of the photos and text messages from the unarmed 17-year-old’s cellphone released by O’Mara last week play right into the rabid hate inspired by Trayvon’s killing. And I’ll admit to being disturbed by a few we hadn’t seen before. Still, none of the sophomoric antics captured on Trayvon’s cellphone camera justifies what Zimmerman did.
Ever since Trayvon was killed by Zimmerman with a single gunshot to the chest after a physical altercation on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., the Internet has been awash in fake images of the slain teenager. One making the rounds among the “Trayvon had it coming” crowd was not of the unarmed 17-year-old, but of heavily tattooed, seemingly menacing 31-year-old rapper Game. But the veracity of some of the other images of Trayvon were in question. Not anymore. The one above of Trayvon staring into the camera and showing off gold teeth is real. So are certain ones of the teenager flipping the bird at the camera. Other photos show Trayvon posing with family and friends. Then there were some that were chilling.
That Trayvon dabbled in doobies like millions of other teens is well known. His autopsy revealed traces of THC, the active ingredient in pot. And his suspension from school after being found with an empty marijuana baggie is the reason he was staying with his father in Sanford. Still, while it was not a surprise to see two photos of potted marijuana plants, it was troubling. Where the pictures were taken and to whom the pot plants belonged is unknown. But nothing was more disturbing than the two photos of a gun. One showed a pistol with a loaded clip next to it. The other showed a hand holding the weapon with the clip close by. Where were those photos taken? Where on earth did that gun come from? Who is its owner?
Perhaps we’ll get the answers when the trial gets underway — whenever that might be. The trial is set to begin with jury selection on June 10. But O’Mara is due in court today to ask for a six-week delay. The judge will also decide whether the cellphone information can be used at trial. Yet, the damage may already be done. The unsavory images of and missives from Trayvon are now in the public domain and their potential to taint a possible jury is high. Even though Zimmerman is the one accused of second-degree murder, it is Trayvon, his character and his actions leading up to his killing that O’Mara will put on trial.
When it looked like O’Mara would push to get the case dismissed under Florida’s insane “Stand Your Ground” law by redefining it, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump had a sobering warning. “We all need to be afraid because the precedent would be set that you can kill certain people and say ‘stand your ground,’” Crump told me in February. “And that’s a terrible precedent for little black and brown boys especially.”
O’Mara’s release of Trayvon’s cellphone photos last week elicited a powerful warning from my MSNBC colleague Jamil Smith. “You’re living under a perpetual Miranda warning, black boys,” he tweeted. “Per @GZlegalCase, anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.” Dead or alive, I might add.
“I never said he was perfect, but he was mine,” Sybrina Fulton said of her son when I interviewed her in February.
“It really is disheartening to know that people in general are trying to justify why this adult male went after this teenage young man. You can’t justify it. You can’t give a reason why,” Fulton said later. “If this adult had remained in his vehicle like the police dispatcher advised him to do, then this situation could have been avoided.”
But Zimmerman did not remain in his vehicle. And what lingers in his past is much more relevant to his second-degree murder trial than the cellphone photos of a dead teenager who was armed with only an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
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