Ahead of next week's start to his murder trial, the strategy of George Zimmerman's defense team has been to throw Trayvon Martin's character into question by leaking "evidence" that stirs up a negative reaction in the press and on social media, even if the Florida courts find it irrelevant. With most of the damage already done, Zimmerman's attorneys now insist that Martin's controversial cellphone video, which they introduced as evidence of the victim taping his friends as they beat up a homeless man, wasn't as controversial as they made it sound.
Attorney Mark O'Mara and the rest of Zimmerman's defense team took five days to acknowledge that they made this mistake, once again smeared Martin, and "misstated the nature" of the video. The lawyers released a statement correcting themselves on Sunday, after O'Mara said in a pre-trial hearing last Tuesday that the defense had obtained video of three fights, one of which, he said, showed that two of Martin's friends "were beating up a homeless guy" while Martin filmed, NBC News reported.
That type of evidence might be damaging if it were actually the type of evidence the defense claimed it was, but instead it will be damaging for a haze of character discrediting and misinformation that may be impossible for any potential jury member to ignore. As The Orlando Sentinel's Rene Stutzman reports, the video was actually "two homeless men fighting over a bicycle," which Martin did film. How that turned into Martin's friends beating up a homeless man is a little beyond us, considering there's a huge difference between two homeless men fighting and two friends beating up a homeless man. But like the fabrications and over-the-top examples before it, the whole point of the defense strategy is to leave you grasping for answers.
Zimmerman's lawyers have already been accused by Martin's family of trying to poison potential jurors. Just last week, Judge Debra S. Nelson ruled that evidence the defense team kept trying to introduce, like Martin's past marijuana use and school suspensions related to fighting, could not be used in court. Those stories, of course, had already been leaked and spread throughout the media in Florida and social media across the country. The Martin family, in a statement, called the moves "a desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool." They probably feel the same way about the latest non-video video "evidence," which won't make it to court either. At least not officially, when the trial officially begins next Monday.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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