George Zimmerman Trial: Six women picked as jurors

George Zimmerman Trial: Six women picked as jurors

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Six women will decide the fate of George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain accused of murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

The six jurors were seated on Thursday after a nearly a two-week long jury selection process, in which potential jurors were grilled about their prior knowledge of the case and their personal beliefs on guns, law enforcement and media coverage of the fatal shooting.

Among the six jurors, five are white and one is Hispanic.  The court also chose four alternates.

"I'm just really glad we're moving this along.  I like the pace" said defense attorney Mark O'Mara.  "Now, we can move forward with the real stuff, the evidence."

He said that Zimmerman was also encouraged that the jury was finally in place.

"We have six jurors who have told us that they will be fair, they will be impartial, and most importantly," he added, "will not allow external pressure, sympathy, biases, or political expediency to affect the way they are going to look at the evidence."

"Our immediate reaction was that we were very happy with this jury," said Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's family.  "It doesn't have a racial component that can be talked about, on and on," she said.  "It takes out the 'black versus white' question that many people have been trying to impose on this case."

Two of the jurors recently moved to the area -- one from Iowa and one from Chicago -- and two are involved with rescuing animals as their hobbies.

One juror had a prior arrest, but she said it was disposed of and she thought she was treated fairly.  Two jurors have guns in their homes. All of their names have been kept confidential and the panel will be sequestered for the trial.

Opening statements are scheduled for Monday. 

After the jury was picked, Judge Debra Nelson continued a hearing on whether to allow experts to testify about screams heard on 911 calls made during the struggle. Prosecutors want their expert to testify it was Martin screaming on the calls.  An expert for Zimmerman's defense has said there is not enough audio to determine who the screams are coming from.

Attorneys had their chance to question the pool of 40 potential jurors on Wednesday and Thursday.

THE JURORS

B29 - A Hispanic nurse in her late 30s who works overnights on an Alzheimer's ward. This is her first time getting a jury summons.  She recently moved to Florida from Chicago. "I really don't know anything about the case," she told attorneys. "I believe, at the end of the day, you have to listen to both sides."
 
B37 - A white woman in her 40s or 50s who works for a chiropractor.  She is married and has two daughters, 24 and 27. She is an animal lover and has a parrot, one-winged crow, three dogs, four cats and a couple of lizards.  Hardship would be on bosses.  Her husband is an attorney.  "I thought it was unfortunate that somebody died," she said and stressed that she had not formed an opinion about the case.

B51 - A white woman who is in her 60s or 70s.  She owns a dog and a 20-year-old cat. She reads the newspaper and watches evening news.   She is a former real estate agent and call center director.  She was informed about the case but said, "I'm not rigid in my thinking."

B76 - A white, middle-aged woman who has lived in Seminole County since 1995.  She does not have cable television.  She has a daughter and a son.  Her son is an attorney.  She knew little about the case, except that, "There was a struggle, and the gun went off."

E6 - A white woman in her 30s, she has two children, ages 11 and 13.  She has been watching the case on local news channels.  She used the trial as teachable moment for kids, "warning them not to go out at night."  She is presently unemployed but has worked  in financial services.
 
E40 - A white woman in her late 60s who is married, she loves to travel, enjoys reading and likes sports.  She recently moved to Seminole County from Iowa.

 

ALTERNATES:  E54 - White man in his 50s; B72 - Hispanic man in his 20s; E13 - White woman in her 20s; E28 -  White woman in her 60s.

 

O'Mara began his line of questioning Thursday morning by asking the potential jurors, "What does 'defendant' mean to you?"

O'Mara is representing Zimmerman, 29, who is charged with second-degree murder. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense.

O'Mara asked the potential jurors about the "presumption of innocence." He asked potential jurors what they would say if forced to give a verdict right now.

HEAR 911 CALLS, PICTURES: ZIMMERMANTRIALONFOX.COM

O'Mara appeared to take a tougher, more direct line of questioning compared to his counterpart on the prosecution side, Bernie de la Rionda, who questioned the potential jurors on Wednesday.

De la Rionda began his questioning asking jurors about their personal lives: their marital status, work history and any extracurricular activities.

He also asked jurors if they watched "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" or "Law & Order," saying it's important to note the difference between "real and make-believe."

De la Rionda also asked if the potential jurors had been neighborhood watch volunteers and if it was acceptable for individuals to take the law into their own hands.  None of the jurors had much experience with neighborhood watch groups and for the most part didn't believe it was OK for individuals to act as law enforcement officers.

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The prosecutor also asked if potential jurors either owned or had fired guns and if the race or age of Martin was important to any decision they would make. About two dozen jury candidates either owned or had fired guns, and a white man in his 60s said he was a member of the NRA. No one said age and race mattered.

The racial and ethnic makeup of potential jurors is relevant, prosecutors say. They have argued that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer for his gated community in Sanford, Fla., profiled Trayvon Martin when he followed the black teen last year as Martin was walking back from a convenience store to the house of his father's fiancee.

Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, fatally shot Martin a short time later following a confrontation that was partially captured on a 911 call.

Under Florida law, Zimmerman could shoot Martin in self-defense if it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. O'Mara previously decided not to invoke a "stand your ground" hearing in which a judge alone would decide whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed to trial.

If convicted, Zimmerman could face a potential life sentence.

 


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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