AFRICANGLOBE – Jury selection is starting in the trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, after the judge in the case denied Zimmerman’s latest request for a delay.
Potential jurors began arriving by the dozens at the Seminole County courthouse this morning, some of whom could leave on the panel of what is sure to be one of the most-watched trials in county history.
In the second-degree murder case against Zimmerman, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson and attorneys will chose a panel of six jurors plus four alternates.
That process begins today for Zimmerman, the 29-year-old former Neighborhood Watch vigilante who shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, during a confrontation in Sanford last year.
According to courtroom discussions this morning, the attorneys, Nelson and Zimmerman will go shortly to give the prospective jurors a questionairre. Once enough have filled it out, jurors will be brought to the courtroom to be questioned by the attorneys.
Court began today with Judge Nelson again denying a request by defense lawyer Mark O’Mara to delay the trial. O’Mara has repeatedly argued the defense needs more time to prepare, and reiterated that today, citing recently recieved data from Trayvon’s cell phone.
The judge ordered the clerk of courts to summon a total of 500 potential jurors. Clerk of Courts Maryanne Morse said aside from those who report today, 100 more will show up each day as needed until the panel is seated.
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.
It’s unclear how long it will take for attorneys and the judge to find a panel.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara has estimated that process will take two or three weeks and the rest of the trial another two to three weeks. Others who have been watching the case closely believe a jury could be seated this week.
Picking a jury can be slow and tedious, but some lawyers say it is the most important part of a trial.
So what will each side look for when choosing jurors?
Defense attorneys will likely favor people age 40 and older, predicted Orlando jury consultant Susan Constantine. They’ll also want managers, authority figures, people who are analytic – engineers, for example – those who are unemotional and will focus on the facts.
Expect prosecutors to favor people ages 18 to 35, those with lower-paying jobs – for example social workers, construction workers or people in service industries – and, in general, those who rely more on emotion in making decisions, Constantine said. Defense attorneys will likely favor Whites, prosecutors Blacks, she said.
Zimmerman, a half White half Hispanic, killed Trayvon, a Miami Gardens high school junior, Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford.
When police declined to arrest Zimmerman, saying they did not have enough credible evidence to counter his claim of self-defense, protesters took to the streets.
“I think it’s going to be a very racially-charged jury selection,” Constantine said.
Because of Seminole County demographics, there are likely to be few Blacks on the jury — or even in the pool from which the jury will be chosen. According to U.S. Census data, 11 percent of Seminole County’s population is Black, compared to 16 percent for the state as a whole.
Check back for updates on this breaking story.
By: Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner