The portrayal of Trayvon Martin as an out of control thug doesn’t square with the youthful looking teenager who was loving and well-loved and who put his family first, according to the parents of the slain teenager.

“Where they’re getting it from, I really don’t know,” Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, told the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) at the formal opening of its convention in New Orleans on Thursday. Martin was referring to reports that his son was a fan of mixed martial arts, suggesting Trayvon Martin had an aggressive, killer instinct.

“Trayvon has never so much as taken a karate class, much less mixed martial arts,” Tracy Martin said.

Martin, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and their lawyers appeared at the conference to discuss the impact coverage of the case has had on them and some of the misconceptions and inaccuracies reported.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was patrolling the gated community in Sanford, Florida, where Martin was visiting with his father. Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the case, has said he shot Martin in self-defense during a confrontation.

Tracy Martin said some of his son’s youthful indiscretions – reports of marijuana use, a run-in with law enforcement, boasts about being a tough guy and the latest reports about his involvement in martial arts – have all been used to portray his son as a sinister character who was a danger to the community, generally, and Zimmerman particularly.

Martin also said the reports suggest that he and Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, had somehow failed as parents.

“Where is it that it can be said that we can’t be loving parents?” Martin asked. “Even though we are divorced…we remained good friends because we want to raise our kids to be good upstanding kids.”

“People need to keep in mind families never plan to be victims,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped draw national attention to the case, said in an interview on stage before the family spoke.

“They are a mother, father, brother who are in pain and I think we sometimes ask more of them than is necessary.”

Fulton denied that she used old photos of Trayvon to make him appear younger and more innocent. In fact, one of the family’s lawyers said, the picture of Martin on horseback was taken just eight days before the teenager was shot. The family, Fulton said, was not trying to slant coverage.

“I’m just an ordinary person,” Fulton said, tearing up as she tried to describe her son and the family’s efforts to see the case adjudicated in court.

Fulton said she and Martin have created to urge Florida’s governor and a task force looking into the slaying to “make amends if necessary” to the Stand Your Ground law, which allows people who feel their lives are threatened in a confrontation, to use lethal force if necessary to protect themselves.

Zimmerman’s lawyers released video and audiotapes Thursday in which Zimmerman reenacted for police what he said happened when he shot Trayvon Martin to death.

On Monday, prosecutors released recordings of jailhouse calls between George Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, in which the couple discussed their finances. Shellie Zimmerman was arrested and released last week on $1,000 bond on charges that she lied about the family’s financial situation at a bond hearing in April.


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