The opposing sides in the George Zimmerman murder trial yesterday began the arduous process of picking the six-person jury—with four alternates—that will be assigned the harrowing task of deciding whether Zimmerman should be sent to prison for killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
Yesterday and this morning, most of the questions the attorneys asked centered around whether potential jurors had heard or read much about the case and whether they believed they could still be fair.
The Orlando Sentinel provided comprehensive descriptions of the anonymous jurors and their responses to questions. The following are a few snapshots :
The juror identified as B-7 said he has heard about the case by listening to NPR, reading the Orlando Sentinel and watching local television, and he didn’t like what he saw.
He “didn’t like the way the news covered it… It felt very speculative,” he said, adding that a lot of people “have taken sides on it … I find that inappropriate.”
He knew there was a “fight that led to a shooting,” but he hadn’t formed an opinion—although his retiree father, who has been closely following the case, believes Zimmerman “instigated” the fight, but may not be legally culpable.
He said that he’d be more comfortable if the jurors were anonymous and that if he was identified he’d be worried the verdict could “alienate family” and “might anger strangers.”
Juror B-35, a middle-aged black man who said he regularly watches Sean Hannity on Fox News, didn’t view Martin’s fatal shooting as a racial controversy.
Zimmerman “should get his day in court … I just believe a man is innocent until proven guilty.” But if Zimmerman is proven guilty, “he has to pay the price,” he said.
B-35 said his family and friends are “all pro-Trayvon,” but he’s holding the middle ground, saying, “I’m not sure if (Zimmerman’s) guilty or not.”
Juror B-37, a woman who is an animal lover and has three dogs, four cats and a parrot, among other pets, said she was aware of the case but doesn’t follow the news. In fact, she said she doesn’t like newspapers and her only use for them is to line her parrot’s cage.
When prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked her if she trusts the media, she said, “I do not.”
Juror B-51, an older, retired white woman who hasn’t followed the case closely and hasn’t formed a fixed opinion, said she was taken aback by all the news crews in the courthouse parking lot.
“It was pretty daunting. … I was shocked,” she said.
When questioned by defense attorney Don West, she said she’d read that “the police had asked (Zimmerman) to wait and that they were on their way… I guess he didn’t wait.”
Asked if that meant Zimmerman did something wrong, and she said “perhaps he did,” but she could change her mind if presented evidence to the contrary.
She advised the attorneys they should be looking for fair jurors, not ones who haven’t heard of Zimmerman.
If you live in Seminole County you know about the case, “unless you’ve been living under a rock,” she said.
Juror B-30 also said he doesn’t watch the news, but said he’d heard about the case. From what he’d heard, there was “fault on both sides” of the conflict, he said, adding that Zimmerman and Martin were both in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” But B-30 said he could set aside what he knows and judge the case fairly.
According to a courts spokeswoman, 41 of the about 100 potential jurors who reported to the courthouse on Monday were dismissed.
Judge Debra Nelson has not said publicly whether the jury will be sequestered — isolated from their family, friends, and news of the case until a verdict is reached—and it’s not clear how long it will take for attorneys and the judge to find a panel.