Frances Robles of the Miami Herald reports today:
George Zimmerman’s defense lawyers will subpoena Facebook, Twitter and Miami-Dade schools in a widespread pursuit of clues to suggest that Trayvon Martin could have thrown the first punch on the night he was killed, a sign that attorneys are going into attack mode in preparation for their case.
A series of notices were sent last week to Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and the principals of the schools Trayvon attended, advising that subpoenas for copies of the slain teen’s academic and attendance records would be issued in 10 days’ time.
Similar warnings are expected to be sent this week to the popular social networking sites where Trayvon maintained accounts, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said.
The subpoenas demand disciplinary records, suspension notices, class schedules, attendance and tardiness records, FCAT and SAT test scores, report cards, as well as any information about whether Trayvon belonged to any clubs or sports activities.
O’Mara is fishing for bad character evidence to support Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was the aggressor and acted like a psycho gangsta.
I discussed the admissibility of bad character evidence in my Friday evening post, Zimmerman: What Kind of Character Evidence will be Admissible at Trial?
“This rule allows Zimmerman to introduce any competent and relevant evidence he can find that supports his claim that Martin is a psycho-gangsta, a person who is physically aggressive and likes to start fights. Such evidence, assuming he can find any, would support his claim that Martin turned into a psycho-gangsta who suddenly appeared out of nowhere, confronted him as he was minding his own business walking back to his truck, sucker-punched him in the nose for no apparent reason, and tried to beat him to death with his bare hands.
I am not aware that any such evidence exists and I doubt he will find any. However, assuming for the sake of argument, that he does, that will open the door to permit the prosecution to introduce evidence that Zimmerman acts like a psycho-gangsta.
I think Zimmerman would be well advised not to open that door.”
I understand and sympathize with his parent’s concern that the defense, which has exhibited a focused intent on trying its case in the media, will use the information it finds, no matter how innocuous, to assassinate Martin’s character. Zimmerman’s supporters, for example, have waged a racist and no-holds-barred campaign of distortion, vicious lies, and character assassination against Martin, his family, their supporters, and anyone who challenges George Zimmerman’s credibility. To expect them to do less with any information obtained with these subpoenas for school-records, Facebook, and Twitter accounts would be naive. Nevertheless, if there is any evidence in those records that Martin was an aggressive bully, I think he is entitled to it.
But what about other sensitive private information, assuming such information exists? What about information protected by privacy laws?Should private information be disclosed and publicized to become fodder for the pro Zimmerman crowd to continue its irresponsible and reprehensible attacks?
A possible solution would be to use the in camera review process to screen information. The defense and prosecution agreed to allow the judge to do an in camera review of Zimmerman’s medical records. Why not also rely on that process for the records O’Mara is requesting?
There is no great mystery about what evidence would be admissible, if it exists. Therefore, in camera review appears to be an ideal and fair solution to assure that the defense gets what it has a right to have and nothing more.
The Court also might want to consider appointing a Special Master to handle all in camera document review. This would free up the judge to handle the usual duties without becoming over burdened and possibly prejudiced against one side or the other due to the document review.