Trayvon Martin as pot smoker: What Zimmerman defense stands to gain
The judge overseeing the George Zimmerman trial has ruled that the defense can discuss how marijuana use might have affected Trayvon Martin on the night of his fatal encounter with the defendant. The strategy serves several purposes.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP
On what may be the last day of testimony in the trial of George Zimmerman, who is charged with killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin on a rainy Florida evening in early 2012, jurors are expected to hear Wednesday about the small amount of marijuana found in the teenager's blood – evidence that allows the defense to argue that pot-smoking could have contributed to a deadly encounter that eventually made news around the world.
In a case in which racial tensions and contention over America's gun culture provide a backdrop, the marijuana testimony would prominently introduce another cultural flash point concerning drug use and perceptions of drug users, especially male African-American drug users.
“Pot before shot,” a Drudge Report headline proclaimed, after Florida circuit court Judge Debra Nelson reversed a previous ruling on Monday, agreeing that the defense can present to the six-woman jury testimony concerning Trayvon’s marijuana use.
Medical examiner Shiping Bao testified last week that he had concluded that the amount of THC – the psychoactive compound in marijuana – in Trayvon’s body “could have no effect or some effect” on his behavior the night of the encounter with Mr. Zimmerman.
With Judge Nelson’s reversal, the defense has an opening to try to cast the 17-year-old's marijuana use as a moral marker – to present Trayvon not as a baby-faced boy but as a more menacing and impulsive character who may have deserved what he got for punching and beating another citizen simply trying to protect his neighborhood.
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