Jury selection resumes in George Zimmerman trial
The extensive process of examining potential jurors in the George Zimmerman homicide case continues Tuesday morning, after the well-publicized case got off to a slow start Monday.
Despite the notoriety, the heavy newspaper coverage and hours of television, cable and radio coverage, the initial potential jurors said they weren’t following the events closely but had heard at least the bare bones of the fateful confrontation between Zimmerman, 29, and an unarmed African American teenager, Trayvon Martin.
“I really didn’t follow the case that much, and I really don’t watch news TV,” said one potential juror, a 65-year-old man who is hard of hearing. He said he got his news, including that of the Zimmerman case, “in drips.”
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Martin, 17. Zimmerman has apologized for shooting the teenager, who was returning from a convenience store with candy and ice tea, but said he had acted in self-defense. The prosecution argues that Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black.
Jury selection is often the critical battleground in many trials, but it is especially important in this type of case, in which the defendant acknowledges taking an action, but argues that it was defensible. Both sides will be probing to find out how prospective jurors feel about self-defense arguments and about racially charged cases like this one, which sparked demonstrations around the country.
In the first phase of jury questioning, the prosecution and defense have concentrated on the impact of pretrial publicity on the prospective jurors. The first group of 100 people have filled out questionnaires and both sides are working through that group and, if needed, will deal with a second group as well.
Eventually, the sides will get to 21 possible jurors who will be questioned further. Six jurors will be chosen to decide Zimmerman’s fate. Selecting a jury and four alternates could take several weeks, lawyers have said.
The process has been going very slowly. The lawyers were able to question just four possible jurors. It is too soon to know if any of those interviewed Monday will actually get on the jury, though at least one appeared to have been already excused.
Though the sample is small, there were similarities among those questioned. They agreed that they could be impartial and would not be swayed by any information they got from outside the courtroom. “Everybody needs a fair trial,” said one possible juror. “At the end of the day you have to listen to both sides.”
They also agreed that they didn’t much care for the established news media nor did the Internet-based media fare much better. One woman, middle-aged, who said she lived about 10 miles from where Zimmerman and Martin had their confrontation, said she no longer gets a newspaper and doesn’t watch television news — though she added that she is fond of watching “CSI,” the CBS series in which forensics plays a pivotal role in the show’s crime-solving.
A second woman, who said she works nights at a nursing home, and has several children including two boys around Martin’s age, said she had recently moved to the Sanford, Fla., area from Chicago. “I don’t know any of the news channels,” she said. “Right when we got here, I got cable.... I love reality shows.”
One woman, who noted that she received her television signal through the rabbit ears-type of antenna, said she saw the case on local television and heard attorneys discussing it — but could disregard what was said. She said she talked about the case with her family, but they’re “open minded.” Like me, she said, they “believe that everyone deserves a fair trial.”
Despite the serious nature of the case and of the charges, there were moments of levity in the initial questioning.
The names of the possible jurors have not been released so the possible jurors are being identified in open court with a letter and a number. One of the possible jurors, B30, was asked by a lawyer if that identification was correct.
“I’d rather B30 than B65, which I am,” the elderly man replied without missing a beat.
“I’m retired,” he said later. “I have nothing else in the world to do but play golf and this is much more interesting.”
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