The legal team for George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, has received a copy of the 17-year-old’s school records, the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday.
“We are entitled to receive the school records because some information in Trayvon Martin’s file could be relevant in the defense of George Zimmerman,” the website for Zimmerman’s legal defense announced today.
The news comes after both the state prosecutors and attorneys for the Martin family objected to the request for the records, arguing that they were irrelevant to the case. But Zimmerman’s legal team appealed the decision and in the end prevailed.
“Though it sounds horrible to come before you and say, ‘I really want to go after the victim’s reputation,’ that is simply what the Sixth Amendment tells us we have to do,” Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, told a judge last year.
The Zimmerman defense received the school records of Trayvon Martin, as ordered by Judge Nelson. When we asked the Court to issue Subpoenas Duces Tecum for the school records, the State objected, and Mr. Crump, on behalf of the Martin family, registered a public objection. They argued, in part, that George Zimmerman did not know Trayvon Martin before the night of February 26, 2012, and so the nature of Trayvon’s character as revealed in the school records is irrelevant to the case at hand.
The Judge ruled that the defense should have the records. This ruling was based, in large part, on a case called State v. Munoz, 45 So 3d 954 (3 DCA 2010). That case holds that, under the right circumstances, a person’s reputation for violence may be admissible in a case, even if the person accused of the crime was unaware of the reputation. The case focuses on the issue of the whether the person with the reputation may have acted aggressively in this case.
We are entitled to receive the school records because some information in Trayvon Martin’s file could be relevant in the defense of George Zimmerman. Moreover, information provided in the file could lead to other discoverable information that may be relevant in the defense. It is our right and our obligation to explore these issues in the zealous advocacy of our client. While some people have argued that this is improper, they can only do so if they are ignorant of the law. As attorneys and advocates, we are charged with the responsibility to investigate and discover any information which may assist our client’s interests of presenting all relevant evidence regarding this event. No one would want, or accept, less if they were the client — nor should they expect less.
Trayvon Martin’s school records are protected, and they should not become part of the public record. We will not post them on our website. If any detail of the school records should be considered relevant in the course of a Self-Defense Immunity Hearing, only the parts deemed relevant to the case will be entered into evidence.
A number of parties have expressed concern that we will use information found in the school records to “demonize” Trayvon Martin. The Zimmerman defense has no intention to demonize Trayvon Martin. While we believe that George Zimmerman has been unjustly demonized as a racist and a murderer by those who saw benefit in doing so, nothing would justify a reciprocal attack on the character and memory of Trayvon Martin.
We also recognize that the memory of Trayvon Martin has become important to the conversation about the state of race relations in America. While the accusations of racially-motivated violence in the Zimmerman case are absolutely false, we know that racially-motivated mistreatment in the criminal justice system is still a serious problem. Further, even though the memory of Trayvon Martin has been misapplied to represent such racially-motivated mistreatment, we welcome the opportunity it has provided to have a candid conversation about race relations in America — as long as that conversation does not interfere with the proper application of justice for George.
As we approach a Self-Defense Immunity Hearing and/or a jury trial, there will be necessary scrutiny of Trayvon Martin. As it is true for any person who undergoes such scrutiny, facts may come out that could be seen to show him in a less than favorable light. We do, for instance, have an interest in presenting Trayvon Martin accurately as he appeared on the night of February 26, 2012, and that will include challenging the several-years-old photo of Trayvon Martin as a boy wearing a red shirt — the photo that has become the popular representation of him in the minds of the public at large. If the memory of Trayvon Martin is going to be a catalyst for a conversation about race relations in America, then we should have an honest conversation.