Racial tensions are sadly embedded in the history of the United States. It was prevalent back in the time of the Civil War, where slavery in the South divided a nation. It had not disappeared by the 1960s, when folks like Martin Luther King had to march for things as simple as basic civil rights. That was fifty years ago, so one would hope that things might have improved since that point.
In some sense, things have gotten better, but it only takes one incident to open up old wounds. Such is the case of the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting of Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a neighborhood watch person, George Zimmerman. This incident has caused much unrest in Florida, with Zimmerman claiming to have acted in self-defense while Martin’s family claims their son was unarmed and murdered.
Zimmerman is supposed to be heading to trial soon, but there are a few hurdles left to go. One of them is an upcoming hearing on admissible evidence during the trial. To that end, the Zimmerman camp let loose an early salvo, hoping to garner some public support for his self-defense assertion. On a website run by Zimmerman’s defense team, lawyers released texts and photos from Trayvon’s phone.
The release is meant to try to discredit the image of Martin being painted by prosecutors. His parents and others have drawn a picture of Martin being a normal teenager who did not deserve to die on the fateful evening. Zimmerman’s defense team begs to differ, and offer Martin’s cell phone content as evidence. Among the things released were texts in which Martin discusses being suspended from school and smoking marijuana.
Also of interest were some texts in which Martin seemed to show interest in guns. There is one picture from his camera that shows a small handgun being held, but there is no evidence to suggest that Martin is the person holding it. According to an NBC News report, other texts reveal Martin’s desire to have a gun and detail how his mother kicked him out of the house. One can see how these would not put the young man in a positive light.
Many experts feel the released cell phone information will not make it into court. Jeff Deen, a former assistant state attorney in Florida, said that strict rules having to do with character evidence will likely make Martin’s texts and photos inadmissible at trial. “What does his mom saying he needs to live with his dad for a while say about why he was shot? Nothing,” he said. “Generally, reputation evidence is not admissible in court.”
The Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, also took umbrage with this evidence by saying, “Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because of the way he looked? 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.” This trial is sure to keep the cauldron of racial tension brewing for some time to come.