George Zimmerman listens during jury selection in Seminole circuit court on the fourth day of his trial, in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 13, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Jacob Langston/Pool)
SANFORD, Florida (USA TODAY) -- Now that a jury for the trial of George Zimmerman has
been picked, lawyers for both sides will do their best to convince a
group of everyday people that Zimmerman either murdered Trayvon Martin
or killed him in self defense.
How the jurors - six women - and
alternates - two women and two men - will weigh lawyers' arguments,
evidence, and witnesses' testimonies may be impacted by their life
experiences, legal experts say. Circuit Judge Debra Nelson made it very
clear that jurors must only use evidence presented in court to reach a
decision on Zimmerman's guilt.
TRIAL: All-female Zimmerman jury chosen
Still, lawyers from both sides and legal experts indicated that juror's backgrounds matter.
jurors will decide this case based upon their life experiences," said
Elizabeth Parker, a criminal defense attorney. "It is natural in this
type of case for a juror to put themselves in the shoes of George
Zimmerman to imagine how they would have reacted to the same situation."
attorney, Mark O'Mara, said Thursday that jurors must use common sense
gained from their lives to reach a verdict. "Our experiences give us
common sense," he said, adding that the experiences used shouldn't
create bias toward either side.
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de
la Rionda made a similar statement when describing how jurors will
decide whether Zimmerman justifiably killed Martin, 17. "You use your
God-given common sense," he said.
Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not
guilty to second-degree murder. The neighborhood watch volunteer says he
killed the teen in self-defense on Feb. 26, 2012 after being attacked.
Prosecutors say he profiled and murdered Martin.
Opening statements for the trial start Monday.
How lawyers got these jurors and alternates involves an unusually comprehensive process.
initial group of 211 people filled out juror questionnaires, which were
then read by lawyers and Circuit Judge Debra Nelson. They chose who
would make it to the next round for individual questioning in open
Only after questioning 58 people about their exposure to
coverage of the case did lawyers narrow the group to 40 people for
traditional juror questioning.
Thursday, lawyers then went down the list striking jurors individually. At least six people were dismissed during this phase.
In the end, Judge Nelson ruled that six women would be the jury and that two men and two women would serve as alternates.
jurors in this case may have a lot of work ahead of them as lawyers
have estimated that the trial will last between two and four weeks.
will most likely have to decide whether circumstantial evidence is
enough to convict Zimmerman and whether voice identification experts'
findings should be trusted.
"While a large population of the
country might watch this trial, the final six jurors' opinion of the
case are the only ones that matter," said Randy Reep, a criminal defense
attorney in Jacksonville. "It would be impossible to overstate how
critical the jurors are to the trial."
Last week, Judge Nelson
ruled that the jurors will be sequestered, housed as a group away from
their families and friends. They will have limited contact with loved
ones and limited access to the Internet. They will not be allowed to
discuss the case with family members or friends or on the Internet.
The ruling is an important one that will keep jurors away from media coverage and feeling pressured, Reep said.
Nelson ruled that jurors' identities will be kept secret for now, and
that she'll decide later when their names can be made public.
jurors or jurors whose employers don't pay them while they serve will
get $15 for first three days and $30 from the fourth day on. Jurors with
employers who pay them while on jury duty don't get paid for the first
three days and then get $30 from the fourth day on.
three rounds of questioning, lawyers learned a fair amount of
information about the people they have now chosen to decide Zimmerman's
Here are several facts about the jurors and alternates who are identified in public by numbers and letters:
THE JURY OF SIX
She is a young woman of color who recently moved with her husband and
children to Central Florida from Chicago. The juror, who has eight
children and has been married for 10 years, once worked as a certified
nursing assistant. She learned of the shooting in the news and first
assumed Trayvon Martin was 12 or 13 based on pictures in the media just
after the shooting. A lot of people in her family took "the child's
side" but that she didn't form an opinion. She said that while living in
Chicago there were reports of many shootings and that she didn't pay
special attention to Martin's death. She also likes watching Bravo,
episodes of the Real Housewives series, and is still adjusting to a
calmer life in Florida.
B76: Juror "B76," a middle-aged white
woman with short brown hair and glasses, has lived in Seminole County
since 1995. She has two children, one of which is an attorney. She's
only heard about the case three or four times, she says. During
questioning, she thought Zimmerman was a security guard. Notably during
questioning about her media exposure, she turned to Martin's mom,
Sybrina Fulton, and said "Is that his mom?" Prosecutors tried to get her
dismissed for that moment but Judge Nelson ruled that she could stay.
Meanwhile, B76 also said it's natural to have sympathy for people but
understands that in this case that shouldn't impact deliberations. A pet
lover, she manages rental properties.
B37: Juror B37, a
middle-aged white woman, is the daughter of an air force captain and has
been married to a space attorney for 20 years. She has two children, 24
and 27, and works in a management position. During questioning, she
told lawyers she knew a "broad spectrum" of names but that she hasn't
kept up with the case. "Newspapers are usually in the parrot's cage,"
she told lawyers. Thursday, she told O'Mara that she had an issue with
what kinds of guns people can own, that someone obtaining a concealed
weapons permit doesn't mean they will act responsibly, and that more
training is needed for concealed permit holders. She has three dogs,
four cats and "a couple of lizards," and has been called to jury duty
four times before this case.
B51: She is an older white woman with
short brown hair who has lived in Seminole County for nine years. She
retired from a job in real estate five years ago, has no children, and
often visits her elderly parents and siblings in north Florida. Last
week, she told lawyers she thought Zimmerman may have done something
wrong because he was eventually arrested. She also brought up that she
heard the police investigation may not have been carried out properly.
"The end result was somebody thought it was mishandled," she said.
Juror E6 is a middle-aged white woman with blond hair who is married
and has two kids, ages 11 and 13. After the shooting, she talked about
"appearance" and "safety" with her kids. She also got emotional when
talking about being a victim of domestic violence. One of the most
talkative people during the group questioning, she often spoke up when
lawyers questioned potential jurors asking once how jurors would deal
with "paranoid" and "anxious" people who claim self defense. Prosecutors
tried at least two times to get her stricken from the jury for
recognizing four names on the potential witness list. But, Judge Nelson
let her stay. E6 is a churchgoer who used to volunteer at a school and
likes gardening and babysitting.
E40: She is middle-aged white
woman who moved to Seminole County in November from Iowa and worked
around the country as a safety officer. She is married to a chemical
engineer, has a 28-year-old son, and does not have a Facebook account.
She remembered little about the shooting summing up her knowledge of the
shooting for lawyers like this: "I recall the phrase gated community,
teenager... That's about it." She likes to travel, read, and likes
watching sports--especially football.
A 14-year resident of Seminole County, E54 is a white middle-aged man
who grew up in Central Florida and has two stepchildren. He wrote on his
juror questionnaire that Zimmerman was "attacked and beaten." He added
later during questioning however that he doesn't really know what
happened that night and could keep an open mind. He enjoys exploring his
family's heritage and has spent time tracing his ancestry.
young man, B72 says he heard about the case but didn't focus on the
shooting and doesn't watch much news. "From what I got, I didn't care
about it," he said, adding later that he is a "stoic" person who
believes sympathy should not factor into a jury's verdict. He also said
he is "naturally suspicious" of people but would not have "pursued"
someone. Instead, he would wait for police if an issue arose, he told
lawyers. The young man is a maintenance technician who spends a lot of
time at the gym and walking his dog.
E13: She is a young white
woman and has lived in Seminole County for 17 years. A student, she
worked as a surgical assistant for about two years and has never served
on a jury. During individual questioning, she told lawyers that she
never talked to other students about the shooting. She also said hasn't
seen any photos of Trayvon Martin or at least hasn't paid attention to
any since shooting. She is a member of a church and owns horses.
A middle aged white woman with glasses who has lived in Seminole County
since 1985. She is originally from Texas, has two adult children, and
has been married for about 28 years. Her answers during questioning
indicated that she knows little about the case and that work absorbs
most of her life. She's a soccer coach and volunteers with Relay For
Life and Girl Scouts.