Trayvon Martin update: Trying Trayvon in court of public opinion

The defense counsel latest tactics can contaminate a jury pool. Photo: George Zimmerman faces second degree murder charges AP photo

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2013 — The lawyer for George Zimmerman, who is accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, has decided that the best defense is to go on the offense and portray the victim as the bad guy. But since the judge has said not in her court, he has gone public.

The Florida judge in the trial, Debra Nelson, has said Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara cannot mention Martin’s suspension from school, prior marijuana use, text messages, or past fighting during opening statements at next month’s trial. But that has not stopped O’Mara from making the information public on the defense team website or getting Fox News to broadcast images on Megyn Kelly’s show of a hand holding a gun and a photo of a marijuana plant.

Trayvon Martin in happier days AP photo

O’Mara declined to say if the hand was that of Trayvon Martin or that the marijuana belonged to the youth. Even Kelly asked how in the world this could be relevant in a court of law. O’Mara claimed it shows that Martin was “street smart.” But how is that a crime, much less a reason to be shot by a stranger who stalked and confronted him?

O’Mara, however, has another motive, saying he is presenting a “three dimensional picture of Trayvon.” What he is actually doing is trying Trayvon Martin in the court of public opinion before the jury is selected on June 10.

This way a tainted or bias jury comes to the proceedings having been exposed to information that Judge Nelson has said at this time is inadmissible in court. She will decide later as the trial unfolds whether she would allow such information.

Meanwhile 25 photos of Martin, released by the defense, are floating on the Internet from Trayvon sporting gold teeth to giving the middle finger. Plus text conversations are part of the treasure trove that O’Mara has released, showing a kid who was definitely trying to be a tough guy, a kid who got suspended from school and kicked out of his house by a fed-up mother. A kid who is a “gangsta” wannabe, the kind sung too fondly about by too many rappers. Not exactly a role model. But certainly not deserving to be killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing a hoodie.

As the Benjamin Crump lawyer for the Trayvon Martin family, put it: “Trayvon Martin did not have a gun. Trayvon Martin did not get out of the car to chase anybody. Trayvon Martin did not shoot and kill anybody. Trayvon Martin is not on trial.”

Not, however, if O’Mara has his way.

Mark O’Mara at pre-trial hearing with counsel Don West AP photo

His tactics, which only serve to pollute the jury, are as old as the hills. Women in rape cases are too often exposed to such tactics as revealing any prior personal history from their sexual conduct to a criminal record, none of which has anything to do with the actual crime of their being raped.

Zimmerman had originally and infamously claimed he was protected from prosecution by Florida’s Stand Your Ground defense but then later dropped that line of defense. His lawyer will now argue that Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he shot the unarmed teenager in the gated community where Trayvon was walking back to his father’s home.

State prosecutors have sought to put a gag order on the defense, saying, “This case should be tried in the courtroom and not in the media. Unless Defense Counsel stops talking to the media about the case, in person or by use of the Defendant’s website, it will be more difficult to find jurors who have not been influenced by the media accounts of the case.”

Of course. That’s the whole point of the defense and it looks like it will be the centerpiece of its case. Meanwhile, the jury pool is now sullied, making it harder than ever to try the case based on what happened that fatal night.

The judge should shut down the defense tactic being used outside the courtroom, but at this point that is probably like shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.

Meanwhile, the chances for a fair trial become precarious as the public avidly gobbles up the tasty tidbits of a teen gone astray. And Trayvon Martin, the victim of second degree murder, becomes a victim for the second time.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.


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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe

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