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George Zimmerman, defendant in the killing of Trayvon Martin, stands in the Seminole Circuit Court with his attorney Mark O'Mara for a pre-trial hearing on April 30, 2013 in Sanford, Fla.
Attorneys for George Zimmerman say that unreleased text messages drawn from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone show the 17-year-old was arguing with a friend and was “angry” on the day he was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla.
“This is relevant to Mr. Martin’s overall demeanor that day and relevant to his emotional state,” a new court filing by the defense team reads. The filing goes on to say the messages “may assist the jury in understanding why Trayvon Martin chose to hide and then confront George Zimmerman rather than simply going home.”
The document, filed with the court in Sanford and made public Friday, is the latest in a back-and-forth over the admissibility of character evidence related to Martin, whose death on Feb. 26, 2012 spurred a national conversation about race, guns, and Florida’s expansive self-defense laws.
Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second degree murder in Martin’s death and will face trial June 10. He has plead not guilty, telling police he resorted to self-defense after Martin punched him and beat his head to the ground after the two crossed paths inside a gated community that night.
Prosecutors have asked the court to prohibit text messages and other materials related to Martin’s life, arguing the materials are irrelevant to the circumstances surrounding the teen’s death.
At a key hearing next week, Judge Debra S. Nelson will hear arguments over what evidence should be admissible at trial.
Thursday, Zimmerman’s lawyers released a slew of evidence culled from Martin’s cell phone, including two pictures of a handgun, and text messages that appear to refer to an organized fight and smoking marijuana.
"He got mo hits cause in da 1st round," Martin says in a November 2011 message, apparently referring to a fight. "He had me on da ground nd I couldn’t do ntn."
In the filing made public Friday, Zimmerman's lawyers say the messages show Martin was an experienced fighter, and that marijuana use "can affect one's judgment and demeanor and is known to cause paranoia and aggression in some."
Text messages between Martin and the friend referred to as Witness 8 from the night of the shooting are redacted in the defense's Thursday release.
Legal experts, citing strict standards for evidence under the law, say it’s not likely the materials will be admitted.
In a release Thursday, a lawyer for Martin’s family, Benjamin Crump, called the release of the materials from Martin’s phone a “desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool.”
But in an interview, Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lead attorney, said he doesn't presume all of the evidence will be admitted. Gathering and sharing materials is part of the normal course of discovery in Florida, O’Mara said, where prosecution and defense are required to swap evidence before trial.
"I'm not sure that any of the stuff about Trayvon Martin's background or my client's background will be relevant," O'Mara told NBC News. "If they were to not go into George's background, and not suggest that Trayvon Martin was an angel, we won't go there either.”
In July, the State released an FBI report that included an interview with an ex-fiancee who filed an injunction order against Zimmerman after an altercation.
Prosecutors also released a photocopy of a MySpace page from 2005, on which Zimmerman appears to disparage Mexicans.
Zimmerman’s attorneys say their client, whose mother is Peruvian, harbors no prejudice. The FBI report also concluded there was no evidence Zimmerman ever demonstrated any racial bias.
Also Friday, the court released a second document by the defense, pushing for a hearing to examine State studies of a 911 tape that captured screaming on the night of the shooting. Lawyers for Zimmerman are seeking to prevent voice analysts hired by the prosecution from testifying at trial.