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Judge to Sequester Jury During Zimmerman Trial

Judge Nelson

The jurors chosen in the George Zimmerman murder trial will be sequestered during the proceedings, putting them out of contact with the outside world, Judge Debra Nelson has announced.

The identities of the jurors will also be hidden from the public, Nelson ruled.

The issue of sequestering had been up in the air for months leading up to the trial, as attorneys were worried that juries might be susceptible to outside influences if they had contact with family, friends and the public in the closely watched trial in Seminole County, Florida. Nelson had declined to sequester the 500 people who had been summoned to be potential jurors in the case.

“Both parties have stipulated they anticipate the trial will last between two and four weeks,” Nelson said. “Based on that, I will be sequestering the jury.”

Thus far, after attorneys have questioned potential jurors all week about their exposure to the details of the case and their potential impartiality, they have identified 20 people to move on to the next stage of questioning. They need to move 30 to the next stage before they can begin asking jurors more personal questions.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing the Martin family, who doesn’t have a role in the trial, displayed his anger at a comment made by former New York City police Detective Harry Houck Tuesday on a live panel. Houck said Martin would still be alive if he hadn’t had a “street attitude.”

“This comment is reprehensible and extremely reminiscent of the victim-blaming rhetoric we saw a year ago,” Crump said.

The prosecutors and defense attorneys have been having a difficult time finding Florida residents who haven’t been affected by the overwhelming news coverage.

“Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, it’s been pretty hard for people not to have gotten a lot of information,” one woman said.

“You’ve shown remarkable insight into our very problem,” defense lawyer Don West said in response, according to published reports.

Some of the responses have revealed how people get their information in the Internet age, such as the college student who said she doesn’t watch television news or read a newspaper. She got her knowledge of Zimmerman and Martin mainly through friends’ Facebook status updates. Her takeaway?

“An African-American was wearing a hoodie or something like that,” she said.

A mother of three said she heard of the case because her pastor led the congregation in prayers for Martin and Zimmerman, but she hadn’t heard much else because she doesn’t have cable TV or Internet service.

A former financial services worker, who estimated she had seen 200 news reports, called the shooting “a very unfortunate incident” and said she used it to talk to her sons about the dangers of going out at night.

One man told the court he had not made up his mind, but  “murder is murder.”

“Even in self-defense, it’s still murder,” he said.

He was dismissed for cause.

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