News Column

Zimmerman Case Returns to Court on Trayvon Martin's Birthday

Feb. 5, 2013

Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel

Trayvon Martin would have celebrated his 18th birthday Tuesday.

It's the first of two difficult dates for the teenager's parents in February. The second comes Feb. 26, the one-year anniversary of Trayvon's fatal encounter with George Zimmerman, which sparked outcry across the globe.

"For his family, it's tough when it comes to his birthday and how to deal with it," said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the teen's family. "As well as coming up in a couple of weeks.... the anniversary of the tragedy."

The teen's birthday coincides with the latest hearing in the second-degree murder case against Zimmerman. Attorneys for the state and defense will be at the Seminole County Courthouse Tuesday morning.

For Trayvon's parents Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Crump said, the timing is a jarring reminder of their loss.

"[Tracy Martin] tries to keep his composure and tries to have faith in the system, but it's very difficult for them to not become... overcome with emotion," Crump said. "[Trayvon's birthday is] supposed to be a day of celebration, but for them it's not a day of celebration."

Instead, the family has announced a series of events through the foundation they formed in their son's name.

The first of those events, announced by the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation, will take place before Tuesday's hearing. Community leaders and college students will say a prayer for the teen's family and sing "Happy Birthday" in front of the Seminole County Courthouse at 8:30 a.m, Crump said.

Later Tuesday, the Goldsboro Welcome Center on Historic Goldsboro Boulevard in Sanford will host an event called "Banding Together for Peace Against Gun Violence."

The event will run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and is expected to feature several Sanford officials, including Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and City Manager Norton Bonaparte, as well as local pastors and attorneys for the teen's family.

Attendees will be given red wristbands, according to Goldsboro historian Francis Coleman Oliver. Their message: "Band together for peace in Sanford, FL against gun violence... celebrating the birthday of Trayvon Martin."

"Let's all band together against gun violence in Sanford," Oliver said in a recent interview, describing the event's message. "Let's band together so that we can see positive results in Sanford, on the heels of Trayvon Martin's birthday."

The Welcome Center is the new home of the Trayvon Martin memorial, a garden of flowers, white crosses and other remembrances alongside Historic Goldsboro Boulevard.

Earlier makeshift memorials and remembrances left outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes, where the unarmed teenager was shot, were cleared away by the city of Sanford -- further frustrating mourning members of the community.

"This memorial already has brought a lot to this area and to the [Goldsboro] Welcome Center," Oliver said. "We've had people come from Texas, Michigan, Canada, New York. We've had people come from everywhere, taking pictures of this memorial and wanting to know the story about it."

On Saturday, the foundation will host a "Day of Remembrance Peace Walk" in Miami. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at Ives Estate Park in Miami and feature motivational speakers, Crump said. The following evening, the foundation will hold its first annual remembrance dinner at the DoubleTree Miami Airport Hotel's convention center.

Trayvon's parents will not attend Tuesday's hearing, Crump said.

The court proceeding, which begins at 9 a.m., will center on Zimmerman's request for a trial delay, as well as additional records his lawyers say they must have before trial:

-- The defense wants biographies of Trayvon, members of his family and key witnesses that were compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, including criminal records. FDLE argues that turning them over would be an invasion of privacy.

-- They want ABC News to turn over any recordings or notes from Crump's first interview with "Witness 8," which ABC reporter Matt Gutman attended. The witness says she was on the phone with Trayvon in the moments before the shooting.

-- Zimmerman's defense wants additional information on the social media accounts of "Witness 8" and Trayvon, as well as more details about the state's analysis of Trayvon's cell phone.

-- The defense also wants the judge's permission to subpoena 7-Eleven for purchase records from the night of the shooting. Trayvon shopped there before his encounter with Zimmerman.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman profiled, pursued and killed the Miami Gardens 17-year-old. Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense after the teen attacked him.

Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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