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When the George Zimmerman trial begins, jurors, at least initially, won’t hear Trayvon Martin described as a pot-smoking would-be thug who brawled, sought out guns and got suspended from school.
Zimmerman’s defense lawyers won’t be allowed to paint that portrait in opening statements as part of a defense strategy to shred the character of the Miami Gardens teenager who was shot to death last year in Sanford.
But in the months and days before his shooting death, Martin was getting in fights, getting high on marijuana, getting suspended from school and talking with friends about getting a gun, according to cell-phone text messages defense lawyers in a pretrial hearing last week.
Martin’s slang-filled, abbreviated, and often misspelled messages – as well as pictures of a semi-automatic pistol, marijuana plants and Martin flipping up 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 Martin.
Martin replied with a denial: “No not at all.” At one point, Martin joked that the friend was “soft.”
“Boy don’t get one planted in ya chest,” the friend joked back. The message was a reference to being shot. Ironically, Martin was shot dead three months later.
Counters Zimmerman’s statements
Although 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. Zimmerman’s defense lawyers hope to counter with Martin’s text messages and his troubled record at school.
The text messages, some of which are redacted – partially edited – don’t make clear whom Martin was talking to at different times. Sometimes it appears he’s joking with a friend, other times with a girlfriend and, in at least one instance, with his father.
Some of the earliest text messages begin in early November 2011, in which Martin 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.
‘Lost a round’
One of Martin’s cell phone pictures shows two teens about to square off against one another as a third stands in the middle like a referee. Martin said he fought a rival who “snitched on me.”
Martin: “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.”
Martin: “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?”
Martin 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,” Martin wrote.
Months later, Martin appeared to get in 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.”
Martin’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’s asked by text: “You want a 22 revolver?” The friend who sent the message said it was bought by “my mommy.”
Dad steps in
On Feb. 21, Martin 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, it’s believe that 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 Trayvon.
A minute later, he followed up: “Be a big brother and not a DONKEY……LOVE DAD.”
Marc Caputo of the Miami Herald (MCT) contributed to this report.