Jury Selection Continues in Trayvon Martin Murder Trial

Attorneys work to ensure 'justice for Trayvon' won't mean a lynch-mob for George Zimmerman.


Jury selection entered its second day in Sanford, Fla., Tuesday as prosecutors and defense attorneys attempt to select an impartial six-person body that will sit in judgment of George Zimmerman, the 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder for shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012.

Five hundred potential jurors were called ahead of the selection process, which started Monday at Sanford's courthouse. The large pool was necessary because of the extraordinary public coverage the case received. In Florida, some criminal cases are tried with six jurors, rather than 12.

Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense after the teen attacked him, but irate local and national activists grabbed headlines nationwide after alleging that Martin was racially profiled, followed and then murdered. Zimmerman was charged with murder by special prosecutor Angela Corey on April 11, 2012.

[VIDEO: Court Records Detail George Zimmerman Injuries]

Police initially declined to charge Zimmerman with a crime because Florida's "stand your ground" law permits residents to use force to protect themselves if attacked and does not obligate victims to flee a confrontation. Although Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman says he fired his gun in self-defense during a scuffle. 

Intense national debate over the law resulted in few substantive legal changes. Zimmerman declined a "stand your ground" hearing in April, during which the presiding judge could have deemed his actions justified under the statute - thereby dropping the charges - or deemed his actions unjustified under the law, possibly hurting his legal defense.

During the first day of jury selection on Monday attorneys scrutinized questionnaires filled out by four possible jurors, and asked them about their knowledge of the case, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

According to the Sentinel, the first day's possible jurors included "a woman with seven children, a grandmother who works the graveyard shift and likes game shows, a retiree with hearing problems and a woman who does not subscribe to cable television."

[DEBATE CLUB: Are 'Stand Your Ground' Laws a Good Idea?]

The second day of selection is also focusing narrowly on what information potential jurors have about the case. One candidate said he "didn't like the way the news covered [the shooting].... It felt very speculative," while another possible juror - a black man who enjoys Fox News host Sean Hannity - said his family is "all pro-Trayvon," but that he's open-minded, the Sentinel reported. A third person, a woman, said she didn't trust the media and only used newspapers to collect her pet birds' droppings. A fourth, a female retiree, informed attorneys they wouldn't find jurors unaware of the case unless they had "been living under a rock."

In addition to six jurors, attorneys must pick four alternates. The identities of selected jurors will be kept anonymous.

Enough dirty laundry has been aired about both Martin and Zimmerman that there's no clear indication of what the ultimate verdict may be. However, presiding judge Debra Nelson has made several pretrial rulings that may hinder Zimmerman's defense strategy.

[AFFIDAVIT: Zimmerman Did Not Use Racial Slur]

Nelson ruled in late May that defense attorneys can not submit evidence of Martin's recent school suspension, his history of fighting, or the fact that the teen tested positive for marijuana use when his body was examined. Zimmerman's attorneys released photos and text messages from Martin's phone - "evidence," they said, that was intentionally withheld for months by prosecutors - last month. The communications, they said, showed Martin was hostile on the night he died. One photo from Martin's phone shows a gun and others talk about drug use, Martin's history of fighting and an incident that led to his mother booting the teen from her home.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, suggested defense attorneys were "trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed" by releasing the texts.