Attorneys for accused murderer George Zimmerman acknowledged over the weekend that they went too far in erroneously describing a video of a fight they found on Trayvon Martin‘s cellphone while they were in court last week.
As part of their effort to impugn the character of the slain 17-year-old before the June 10 trial, the defense team has been releasing pictures, video and text messages that they say present a fuller picture of Martin as an aggressor.
Although Judge Debra Nelson has ruled that information on Martin’s cellphone is not admissible at trial, defense attorney Mark O’Mara was at it again last week, trying to show that Martin took part in organized fights. He claimed in court on Tuesday that a video, recorded by Martin, showed two of his friends beating up a homeless man.
But yesterday, the defense team released a statement apologizing for giving incorrect information, saying the video actually showed two homeless men fighting over a bicycle. The defense team statement said Martin and a friend had come upon the fight and Martin had merely recorded it.
In his statement, O’Mara described his mistake in court as unintentional and said he was unhappy about it.
“We have been committed to disputing misinformation in every aspect of this case, not causing it,” the statement said.
Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Martin’s family, was asked Tuesday whether she knew about a video showing Martin recording his friends beating up a homeless man. She said she wasn’t sure the video existed.
In an article in the Huffington Post, Mark Pinsky said the Zimmerman team is trying to mount the “thug defense.”
“In that narrative, the 17-year-old victim would be portrayed as a menacing figure, slinking around in the darkened, gated community, who attacked Zimmerman — rather than the other way around,” he wrote.
Since Seminole County is just 10 percent black and juries only consist of six people, Pinsky said it will be difficult for the prosecutors to avoid seating an all-white jury in the racially charged case.
“That’s going to be an issue,” Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump acknowledged.
Pinsky predicted the case would hinge on whether the jury is allowed by Nelson to consider lesser charges, since it might be reluctant to convict Zimmerman for second degree murder, which requires proof of intent to kill and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
But lesser included offenses, such including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, which carry a maximum sentence of 15 years, might give the jury a preferred alternative.
“The Florida state statute describing involuntary manslaughter reads as though it were written to describe the uncontradicted facts of the Trayvon Martin shooting,” Pinsky wrote. “That is, that the armed Zimmerman, against the advice of a police dispatcher, continued to stalk Martin until an altercation ensued that resulted in Martin’s death. A person would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter if he or she acted with ‘culpable negligence,’ in a manner that demonstrated a reckless disregard for human life.”
Pinsky said this might be where the jury ends up, convicting Zimmerman of involuntary manslaughter, which he said would be a compromise, “split-the-difference” decision.