Defense tries to get Trayvon Martin's text messages on fighting introduced at Zimmerman trial

  • Article by: KYLE HIGHTOWER , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 9, 2013 - 10:25 PM

George Zimmerman arrives for the day's proceedings, with his attorney Don West, left, in his trial in Sanford, Florida, Tuesday,July 9, 2013.

Photo: Joe Burbank, Mct - Mct

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SANFORD, Fla. — Defense attorneys asked a Florida judge on Tuesday to introduce Trayvon Martin's text messages and a Facebook posting dealing with fighting as evidence at George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial.

As defense attorneys neared the finish of their presentation, they called computer analyst Richard Connor to read to the judge text messages he found on the 17-year-old Martin's phone in which he purportedly recounted a fight he had been in to a friend.

Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in February 2012 in a gated community in Sanford. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic; some activists argued that the initially delay in charging Zimmerman was influenced by Martin's race.

Jurors were out of the courtroom as defense attorneys presented their arguments about the text messages. Judge Debra Nelson heard the testimony during a hearing late Tuesday. She had ruled that information about Martin's interest in guns and fighting couldn't be used during opening statements, but she had left open the possibility that they could be introduced later.

As the hearing dragged past 10 p.m., defense attorney Don West complained that the defense hadn't been given Martin's cellphone data by prosecutors in a timely manner, which would have allowed them to authenticate the messages.

"It's simply unfair for Mr. Zimmerman not to be able to put on his defense because of these tactics," West said.

When a frustrated Nelson abruptly told the attorneys that she would rule Wednesday, West continued to address her after she officially had adjourned for the evening. He complained about a schedule that had lawyers working weekends and taking multiple depositions during the trial, in which jurors have been sequestered.

Prosecutor John Guy said jurors shouldn't be presented with the text messages and photos of a gun found on Martin's phone, as well as a Facebook posting from a half-brother asking Martin when he was going to teach him how to fight.

"It would mislead the jury and be prejudicial," Guy said. "It doesn't tell us about Trayvon Martin and certainly doesn't tell us what George Zimmerman knew about Trayvon Martin."

However, West said they were relevant.

"It relates to his physical capabilities, his knowledge of fighting," West said.

The effort to get the text messages and cellphone images introduced came after the judge said she would rule Wednesday on whether a defense animation depicting the fatal struggle between Martin and Zimmerman can be played for jurors.

Nelson held an evidence hearing with jurors out of the courtroom. Prosecutors object to allowing the animation, saying it isn't an accurate depiction.

An expert on gunshot wounds also testified that the trajectory of the bullet and gunpowder on Trayvon Martin's body support Zimmerman's account that the teen was on top when the defendant shot and killed Martin.

Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist, also used photographs of Zimmerman to point out where he appeared to have been struck. His testimony took up a significant portion of the day's hearing. Defense attorneys, who said they may wrap up their case Wednesday, were hoping DiMaio's testimony would help convince jurors of Zimmerman's claims that he shot Martin in self-defense.

DiMaio said the muzzle of Zimmerman's gun was against Martin's clothing and it was anywhere from 2 to 4 inches from Martin's skin.

"This is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's account that Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward at the time he was shot," said DiMaio, the former chief medical examiner in San Antonio.

DiMaio testified that lacerations to the back of Zimmerman's head were consistent with it striking a concrete sidewalk. Later, when looking at photos of Zimmerman's injuries taken the night of the shooting, DiMaio identified six separate impacts to Zimmerman's face and head. He said he believed Zimmerman's nose had been broken.

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