George Zimmerman trial: Jury selection gets underway today - KMSP-TV

George Zimmerman trial: State, defense to question potential jurors in groups

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Defense attorney Mark O'Mara holds a stack of jury questionnaires, with co-counsel Don West (center), George Zimmerman and jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn (far right), Monday, June 10, 2013. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) Defense attorney Mark O'Mara holds a stack of jury questionnaires, with co-counsel Don West (center), George Zimmerman and jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn (far right), Monday, June 10, 2013. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)
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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

The trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murdering Miami teenager Trayvon Martin, began on Monday with the judge denying the defense's request to delay the trial.

Lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara told Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson that his team needed a few more weeks to prepare. 

"We're not fully ready and need more time," O'Mara said. "That time may be as short as a few weeks."

O'Mara blamed prosecutors for a delay in turning over evidence and said he needed additional time to interview Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. 

After the judge rejected the request, which had been opposed by the prosecution, that cleared the way for jury selection to begin.

Zimmerman sat in the courtroom just a few feet away from his wife, Shellie, and his brother, Robert.  Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton, were also in attendance, as were four pastors -- two from the area and two from elsewhere. After the shooting last year, the pastors came together promoting peace in what has become a racially charged case.

In a process that could take two weeks, 100 potential jurors started filling out confidential questionnaires Monday and will be questioned by the state and defense in groups of 21.  When complete, six people will chosen as jurors and four as alternates, out of a total of 500 people.

The jurors who are selected for the trial are to remain anonymous as ordered by Judge Nelson, but the entire jury pool will not be sequestered.

Out of the 21 potential jurors in the first group, two were black and one Hispanic.  Before the day was through, four were questioned. 

State prosecutors and Zimmerman's defense team spent the afternoon trying to determine how much pre-trial publicity the potential jurors had been exposed to in the second-degree murder case against Zimmerman.

A woman in her 50s who watches TV games shows said she believed she could be unbiased even though she knew some basic facts of the case. Another woman in her late 30s who recently moved from Chicago and works in a nursing home, said she only had a passing familiarity with the case -- mainly images she saw of people wearing T-shirts with Martin's face on them.
 
"I really don't know anything about the case," said the woman, known as Juror B29. "But I believe at the end of the day, you have to listen to both sides."

Zimmerman showed very little emotion and frequently looked down as potential jurors were being questioned.

Juror B30, a 65-year-old man with hearing loss, said he recalled Martin's parents going public about their concerns over the lack of an immediate arrest last year and more recently testimony over whether voice-recognition experts should be allowed to testify at trial.
 
"There was fault on both sides as far as I can see, two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Juror B30. "Two people who instigated something that could have been avoided."

The defense has requested that Zimmerman be allowed to meet the potential jurors during the process. Zimmerman was present in the jury holding room as his defense attorneys and prosecutors first introduced themselves to the potential jurors.

MORE PICTURES, 911 CALLS: ZIMMERMANTRIALONFOX.COM

 "We seek a fair and impartial trial," Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin, said Monday. "We ask that the community continue to stay peaceful as we place our faith in the justice system."

It was February 26 of last year when Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon. Zimmerman says it was an act of self defense when Martin attacked him, but Martin's family says the unarmed teen was murdered.

Meanwhile, several protesters have turned up in Sanford, including some who plan to march outside the Seminole County courthouse today. According to the Orlando Sentinel, a group with members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network says they have come to fight for justice for Martin.

TEXT ALERTS: GET THE VERDICT AS IT HAPPENS -- SIGN UP AT ZIMMERMANTRIALONFOX.COM

The lottery for seats in the trial opened Friday. Twenty-four seats are available to the public each day via the lottery. Those chosen will receive a phone call the night before the day applied for.

Nelson has reserved four seats in the courtroom for Sanford pastors. One dozen religious leaders will take turns sitting in the courtroom. They reportedly will take notes and information back to their congregations.

Judge Nelson said the jury selection would alternate with the continuation of a hearing to determine whether she will allow the testimony of voice-recognition experts who say they might be able to identify who was screaming on a 911 tape recorded during Zimmerman's confrontation with Martin.

After three days of special evidence hearings that flowed into the weekend, Nelson ended the hearings without a decision on whether audio experts who analyzed a 911 call the night Martin was shot and killed would be allowed to testify during the trial.

On Saturday, one of the witnesses slated to testify could not make it to court on time because of an airline delay.

Lawyers for Zimmerman say the voice heard on the call is their client screaming for help. But Martin's family says it's Trayvon screaming out.

Nelson hopes to continue the audio-expert hearing later this week.

The trial begins almost a year and a half after Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed Martin, 17. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty. Six jurors and four alternates will have a role in deciding one of the most talked-about cases in the country. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.

 

Information from wire services was used in this report.

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