In the months and days before his shooting death, Trayvon Martin was getting into fights, getting high on marijuana, getting suspended from school and talking with friends about getting a gun, according to cellphone text messages that defense lawyers for shooter George Zimmerman released Thursday.
Trayvon’s chronically misspelled, slang-filled messages — as well as pictures of a semi-automatic pistol, marijuana plants and Trayvon flipping his middle fingers — are all part of Zimmerman’s defense plan to put the Miami Gardens 17-year-old posthumously on trial.
“So you just turning into a lil hoodlum,” one friend, whose name has been withheld, texted Trayvon.
Trayvon replied: “No not at all.”
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At one point, Trayvon joked that the friend was “soft.”
“Boy don’t get one planted in ya chest,” the friend joked back.
The message, a likely reference to being shot, eerily foreshadowed Trayvon’s fate three months later.
On the rainy evening of Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon at an apartment complex in Sanford, near Orlando, where the Miami Gardens teen was sent to live with his dad to get back on track.
That night, Trayvon was returning from a convenience store where he had just bought a pack of Skittles and some iced tea. Zimmerman said he believed the young man in the hoodie sweatshirt was up to no good.
No one witnessed who threw the first punch at whom or why.
But soon Trayvon was dead from a Kel Tec gunshot wound, Zimmerman was in police custody and the nation began debating Florida’s deadly force law known as “Stand Your Ground.”
The law offers protections for some shooters in public places, but Zimmerman was still charged with second-degree murder by a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Zimmerman is pleading self-defense, and said Trayvon attacked him.
His trial is scheduled for June 10.
Though Zimmerman might not take the stand, his statements given to police and his 911 calls on the night of the shooting are major pieces of evidence. His defense lawyers hope to counter with Trayvon’s text messages and his troubled record at school.
A Central Florida judge must now decide whether the evidence is relevant to the case. The prosecution and Trayvon’s family say it isn’t.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon’s family, said in a written statement that the defense was displaying “stereotypical and close-minded thinking” in signaling that it planned to use Trayvon’s messages and photos, including pictures of him blowing smoke and showing off gold teeth.
“The only photos or videos that are relevant or admissible at trial are those of Trayvon taken the day he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman,” Crump said. “There is no evidence that Trayvon either had gold teeth nor gave anybody the finger the night he was shot and killed. Therefore those pictures are irrelevant and will not be admitted into evidence.”
The text messages, some of which are redacted, do not make clear whom Trayvon was talking to at different times. Sometimes it appears he was joking with a friend, other times with a girlfriend and, in at least one instance, with his father.
Some of the earliest text messages date back to early November 2011, in which Trayvon, a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in North Miami-Dade, indicates he was suspended from school for being in a fistfight.
Later in the month, on the 21st, he exchanged messages with at least one friend about an after-school fight.
One of Trayvon’s cellphone pictures shows two teens about to square off against one another as a third stands in the middle like a referee. Trayvon said he fought a rival who “snitched on me.”
Trayvon: “I lost da 1st round :) but won da 2nd nd 3rd.”
Friend: “Ohhh So It Wass 3 Rounds? Damn well at least yu wonn lol but yuu needa stop fighting.”
Trayvon: “Nay im not done with fool.. he gone hav 2 see me again.”
Friend: “Nooo Stop, yuu waint gonn bee satisified till yuh suspended again, huh?”
Trayvon told another friend at the time that his mother wanted him to move in with his dad after he was suspended.
“Da police caught me outta skool,” Trayvon wrote.
Months later, Trayvon appeared to get into trouble again, but suggested on Jan. 6, 2012, that he was an innocent bystander: “‘I was watcn a fight nd a teacher say I hit em.” The following month he complained he got in trouble for something “I didn’t do.”
In between these messages, he appears to flirt with a girl and talk extensively about smoking marijuana, or “kush.” One friend called him a “WEEDHEAD.”
Trayvon’s troubles appeared to get worse and, on Feb. 13, he explained to a friend that he was serving “10 dayz” of suspension.
Five days later, he repeatedly appears to inquire about a gun with a friend: “U got heat??” Hours later he was asked by text: “You want a 22 revolver?” The friend who sent the message said it was bought by “my mommy.”
On Feb. 21, Trayvon appeared to be heading to Sanford to live with his father. But he hadn’t lost interest in guns.
“U wanna share a .380?” he asked one friend.
Hours after that, someone who appears to be his father sent him text messages about staying in Sanford.
“Show much respect to [redacted] and adjust to my Lady & [redacted]. Show them that you a good kid and you want positive things around you,” his father, Tracy Martin, wrote to Trayvon.
A minute later he followed up: “Be a big brother and not a DONKEY LOVE DAD.”