With less than a week left before the Trayvon Martin trial begins, an attorney for Martin's family now claims that George Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara fabricated evidence in an attempt to sway both the public and the jury.
Since Zimmerman's fatal confrontation with the 17-year-old Martin more than a year ago, both the judge and the public have been presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence during numerous court appearances and hearings. During a hearing last Tuesday, Zimmerman's defense team claimed that they had obtained video footage of "two buddies of [Martin] beating up a homeless guy." In a statement on Zimmerman's website, O'Mara later apologized for mischaracterizing evidence that in fact showed two homeless men fighting over a bike.
However, the law office representing Martin's family said this mistake was much more serious than a simple misstatement.
"The video, to me, is one of the clearest examples of a pure fabrication," Jasmine Rand, managing attorney and head of the civil rights division of Parks and Crump's South Florida office, told The Huffington Post. "I have no idea where that information came from. It's inaccurate, and to spread that type of information on such an important case was a clear fabrication of the evidence. I think that the behavior of the defense, to me, would call into question their veracity as a whole. And if you fabricate evidence once, I don't trust that you wouldn't fabricate evidence twice."
Shawn Vincent, a spokesperson for O'Mara's law firm, told HuffPost that the defense apologized for spreading misinformation and addressed the mistake quickly to continue its commitment to sharing accurate information with the public.
The footage is just a small part of a slew of evidence released by the defense, including photos and text messages from the teen's phone, that it's offered in support of its theory that Martin was the aggressor on the night of the fatal encounter. Judge Debra Nelson later ruled that the defense cannot mention Martin's drug use, school suspensions, text messages or history of fighting during its opening statement.
But simply releasing the evidence to the public could have a major effect on this trial and others, Rand said.
"This case doesn't occur in a vacuum, and the manner in which we conduct ourselves as legal professionals has an impact that lasts beyond the Trayvon Martin case itself, and has larger societal implications," she said. "A lot of the evidence that they've brought forward is completely irrelevant, and it's a very clear attempt to assassinate Trayvon Martin's character publicly in the media by mischaracterizing certain evidence."
In the past, O'Mara has justified using such evidence by suggesting that it helps to prove his client acted in self-defense.
"There is certainly enough evidence ... that's going to suggest Trayvon Martin involved himself ongoingly [sic] with fighting with other people," O'Mara said during last Tuesday's hearing, adding that it was his team's responsibility to bring forward any information that would be helpful to their client's case.
"I think it's a very dangerous message to send the public, when you're trying to justify killing somebody because of the way they look," Rand said. "It's different when you're bringing information before the court, as opposed to allowing this misinformation to go viral online. That's not his responsibility, that was a choice and a conscious decision he made to spread misinformation to the masses. He's killing his own credibility in the process."
UPDATE: Tuesday, June 4 -- Mark O'Mara told HuffPost, "It was a mistake, I've acknowledged it, it happened and I'm sorry. I only wish that those who are so willing to condemn would be without fault first."
"I said something wrong, and I apologize," O'Mara added. "What they're doing is trying to make more out of it because they have, for the past year, put Trayvon Martin up on a pedestal where he shouldn't have been, because he's a regular 17-year-old kid and they knew all this information about him."
"Quite honestly, I'm not sure there's any impact at all because no one has seen the video," O'Mara noted. "They're entitled to their opinions. I would only hope that they apologize for their mistakes as quickly as I have."
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