Dismissed George Zimmerman juror files civil rights claim

Dismissed George Zimmerman juror files civil rights claim

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

A man who was dismissed as a potential juror in the George Zimmerman trial claims his civil rights were violated.

The Florida Civil Rights Association (FCRA) announced earlier this week that the association will provide legal representation to Jerry P. Counelis, known as juror E-7, saying he was unfairly banned from the Seminole County Courthouse on Friday.  The FCRA also alleges that Counelis was defamed by Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara.
 
"Counelis filed a complaint with the Florida Civil Rights Association alleging violation of his civil rights during the jury selection process in the George Zimmerman's murder trial of Trayvon Martin," said J. Willie David, III, the organization's president.  "I'm highly troubled and disturbed by the reckless and defamatory comments made by George Zimmerman's Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara who sounded off to news reporters about Mr. Counelis' character."

When questioned by attorneys during the first phase of jury selection last week, Counelis appeared eager to serve on the jury, saying he could withstand the hardships of being sequestered.  

The self-described musician and painter told attorneys he didn't have an opinion on the Zimmerman case.  But the defense discovered a posting on a Facebook page for the "Coffee Party Progressives" about Trayvon Martin, which they believe indicated otherwise.

"I just want to know if that's your posting," Circuit Judge Debra Nelson asked him.  "I don't need an explanation for what is posted, I just want to know if it is, in fact, your posting," she said.

"Yes," he replied.

Counelis was then escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy.

Later, defense attorney Mark O'Mara said the incident could have cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in damage. 

"It's devastating to a case to have a juror who has an agenda, but it's really devastating to the system, because we start losing faith in the system," he said.

Counelis returned to the courthouse on Friday to publicly express concerns about privacy and the jury selection process.   He was again escorted out of the courthouse and has been prohibited from returning to the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center until the trial ends.

David emphasized that Zimmerman is entitled to a fair trial, but he said his organization will continue to monitor the Zimmerman trial to ensure that the rights of jurors and protestors are protected.  

"Prospective jurors do not seek out the public forum," David said.  "They are summoned by the court, often unwillingly, to fulfill a public civic duty."  He added, "The Court is duty bound to protect prospective jurors and jurors from privacy intrusion and character assassination by defense attorneys, prosecutors and the news media."

The FCRA describes itself as a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting and expanding the civil rights and civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitutions and civil rights laws of the United States and  the State of Florida.  

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