SANFORD, Fla. – A jury was selected to decide the fate of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Miami Gardens during a violent scuffle in February 2012.
Lawyers on Thursday afternoon agreed on the six – all women, five of them white and one a lighter-skinned black woman — plus four alternates.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the case that drew worldwide attention, spurred racial tension in the Central Florida town and cast a spotlight on Florida’s self-defense law.
These are the jurors, known by an assigned number to protect their identities:
• B29: A lighter-skinned woman – possibly black or Hispanic – who lived in Chicago at the time of Trayvon’s death. The woman, who works at a nursing home, told lawyers that she didn’t watch much news and worried about her eight children.
• B76: A middle-aged white woman who remembered wondering why Trayvon was out late at night. Prosecutors sought, to no avail, to strike her from the panel.
• B37: A white mother of two who volunteers rescuing animals and made a point to note that she used newspapers only to line the bottom of her parrot’s cage. She remembered “rioting” in Sanford during the uproar over Trayvon’s death.
• B51: An older white woman who didn’t keep up with the case in the news because she has been handling the estate of a deceased uncle. She recalled thinking the case was “very sad.”
• E6: A church-going, unemployed, white woman in her 40s with two kids. She likes babysitting and gardening.
• E40: A white woman in her 60s from Iowa. She has a 28-year-old son, enjoys sports and served on a jury about 20 years ago.
The jurors will be sequestered for up to four weeks until the conclusion of the trial.
The jury was chosen on the ninth day of jury selection, and after Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, spent the morning asking the larger pool of potential jurors about legal concepts such as reasonable doubt, self-defense and the importance of keeping biases out of the courtroom.
“I think we get our common sense from life experiences,” O’Mara told the group. “We don’t expect you to become robots.”
Thursday’s seating of the jury comes as part of an important day in the trial of Zimmerman, who is claiming self-defense. A weeks-long delay in charging Zimmerman sparked racially charged protests and caused scrutiny of Florida’s self-defense law. In the afternoon, Nelson is likely to decide whether state audio experts can testify about their conclusions in analyzing 911 calls that are evidence in the case.
One 911 phone call, from a neighbor reporting the outside scuffle, recorded apparent cries for help. State experts suggest the screams belonged to Trayvon – a key conclusion that would paint Zimmerman as the aggressor.
Defense experts, in hearings held intermittently for the past two weeks, have said the experts’ methods of analyzing the calls through computer programs are “new and novel.”
Earlier in the day, O’Mara pressed potential jurors about whether they could be fair despite the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman.
“He’s here before you, charged with a crime. The state has decided to prosecute him. How does that weigh in on whether or not he’s guilty?” O’Mara asked.
Potential jurors responded by saying they could rely on evidence to make their decisions.
“I would agree he’s presumed innocent until found guilty based on the evidence,” one woman said.
Several jurors recalled living overseas, where defendants were not presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Sometimes you disappear and you never got back and you would disappear for years and years,” said one woman who lived in an unnamed South American country ruled by a dictatorship.