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George Zimmerman trial: Defense attorneys want Trayvon Martin's postings, school records

3:16 PM, Oct 19, 2012   |    comments
Trayvon Martin. (AP File)
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Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

SANFORD, FL -- A judge ruled Friday that Trayvon Martin's school and social media records should be provided to attorneys defending the man accused of killing the teen, who they argue was the aggressor in the conflict and has a history of violence.

Judge Debra Nelson cited Florida's self-defense law in her ruling. She also ruled that Trayvon's social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter can be provided to defendant George Zimmerman's attorneys, Nelson ruled. However, she added that she would entertain motions by both Twitter and Facebook if either company did not want to provide the records.

She also ruled that Zimmerman's medical records should be provided to prosecutors. However, Nelson will review the medical records and decide whether anything should be withheld.

Attorneys for Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with the teen's death, filed motions to obtain the materials. They say the information could "lead to relevant admissible evidence and is therefore material for the preparation of the defense."

Hours before the hearing, Trayvon's parents and their attorneys called the motions a "fish expedition" aimed at attacking the teen.

"His school records aren't relevant," Tracy Martin told USA TODAY. "Trayvon was the victim. I think it's an attempt to assassinate his character. They are trying to say Trayvon was a troubled child and he wasn't."

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon on Feb. 26. He told police he shot the 17-year-old in self-defense after the teen repeatedly knocked his head to the ground. Trayvon's family said Zimmerman racially profiled the unarmed black teen and confronted him as he walked home from a convenience store.

A trial date of June 10 was set by Judge Nelson, who is presiding over the case. Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lawyer, says he hopes to have a self-defense immunity hearing in April or May where the judge will be asked to drop the charges.

If Nelson grants O'Mara's request for Trayvon's school records, the defense team could get information about the teen's absences, suspensions, report cards, grades and SAT scores.

Trayvon's family said that they don't believe anything in his school records will justify his death -- including the fact that the teen had recently been suspended from school for having a plastic bag with marijuana residue.

"We don't believe the suspension had anything to do with him being murdered," Sybrina Fulton, Travyon's mother, said of her son.

In response to the moves to get their son's personal information, Trayvon's family said they hope to obtain Zimmerman's medical records to find out what medications he may have been on before the shooting.

"We want to know what drugs were in his system that made him do the things he did," Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon's parents, said.

Crump said Trayvon's social media entries can't be varied and that the teen isn't here to defend himself. He also accused Zimmerman's defense team of trying to prolong the case so that public interest will die down.

"They are trying to distract you from the crux of the matter -- George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon," Crump said. "The wait for justice is always a terrible thing for a family."

As they wait for the outcome of the case, the teen's parents have launched the Change for Trayvon Committee of Continuous Existence, which they hope will lead to changes in "stand your ground" laws across the country.

Through the organization, they hope to pass "Trayvon Martin amendments," which would bar people who are aggressors in conflicts from using stand your ground defenses.

"We definitely have to change these laws," Fulton said. "I'm asking any mother who has a son to support me."

Judge Nelson will also be hearing arguments about whether to issue a gag order, close future hearings and seal several documents. In a court filing, Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda argues that further interviews or social media comments will make it harder to find a jury that has "not been influenced by media accounts of the case."

Several media companies including USA TODAY, CBS-News, and The Miami Herald have filed a motion to stop de la Rionda's motions from being issued. They argue that Florida's open records allow the media access to the case and the evidence.


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