Friday, January 19, 2018
News Roundup

Jury selection begins in George Zimmerman's trial

SANFORD

After a methodical first day of jury selection in the Trayvon Martin murder trial Monday, one thing became clear: Even people who profess to pay little attention to the news have heard about the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Miami Gardens teenager.

One potential juror, a female night-shift worker who loves game shows and CSI: Miami, recalled the now well-known image of Martin in a hooded sweatshirt.

Another woman, a recent Seminole County transplant from Chicago and lover of reality TV shows, said she remembers "people selling T-shirts and some kid died."

A third possible juror, the rare person without cable television at home, nevertheless remembered broadcast images of defendant George Zimmerman's head injuries — and Trayvon's parents appearing on television.

"I'm not sure, but is that his mom?" the woman asked, nodding toward Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, in the second row of the Seminole County courtroom.

Monday's brief questioning of four potential jurors underscored the difficulty lawyers will have in finding citizens who are unswayed by the unprecedented publicity that has swirled around the case since Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon during a struggle in February 2012.

The trial's start also marks the beginning of the road to justice for two families. Trayvon's family asked for prayers from the public.

"We waited over a year for the trial. We were patient for the arrest, and we will be patient for the trial," Fulton, Trayvon's mother, said early in the day. "We will let the judicial system go through the process and . . . however much time they need to present the case, we will be there, we have to support our son."

And Robert Zimmerman Jr., brother of the accused, talked about the constant fear the family feels in the face of death threats. He said he believes jurors will clear his brother of second-degree murder.

"As a family, we're very confident in the outcome of the case and very confident that the state will not be able to prove its burden," Robert Zimmerman told reporters.

Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, who faces perjury charges for allegedly misleading the court last year about the amount of money she and her husband had available for bail, sat a few rows back from her husband.

The road to a verdict, however, is likely to be long.

The selection of jurors who both the prosecution and defense believe can be objective in the highly publicized case is expected to take all week, if not longer.

Six jurors and four alternates will hear Zimmerman's trial.

Lawyers for the prosecution and the defense on Monday questioned prospective jurors one by one, from a pool of hundreds, trying to weed out bias. They got through just four by day's end, with no jurors chosen.

After the prosecution and defense teams agree on prospective jurors culled from the initial round, a second round of questioning will occur.

Judge Debra Nelson said the jury selection would alternate with the continuation of a hearing to determine whether she will allow the testimony of voice-recognition experts who say they might be able to identify who was screaming on a 911 tape recorded during Zimmerman's confrontation with Martin. No testimony took place Monday.

Attorneys today will begin questioning 17 more jurors about pretrial publicity, and likely scores more after that.

Even as the potential jurors answered questions — each insisting they could be unbiased — they admitted they were cognizant of the TV news trucks that idled in parking lots outside the criminal court, clogging traffic.

"I said, 'Oh my God, I must be on Zimmerman,' " the first potential juror interviewed, a middle aged blonde woman, told lawyers, when she realized her jury selection coincided with perhaps the biggest criminal case in Seminole County history.

A 65-year-old retiree whom attorneys questioned admitted his family told him to use his partial deafness to get out of jury selection. He didn't. He did admit he believed the shooting "was the fault of both sides," but he said he could serve on the jury.

"I could play golf, but this is much more interesting," he said.

Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon on a rainy night Feb. 26 in the Retreat at Twin Lakes.

The saga inflamed racial tensions in this small Central Florida town. But outside the courthouse Monday, only a handful of Trayvon Martin supporters gathered.

Inside court, a few spectators had snagged seats through a lottery system. Said Sanford train engineeer John Mcclanahan, 60: "I get to see people on TV. That's pretty cool."

Information from the Associated Press and New York Times was used in this report.

   
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