SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Attorneys resumed jury selection Tuesday in the trial of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, interviewing a middle-aged black man who said the case was politicized and a middle-aged white man who questioned the need for Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law.
George Zimmerman, who was a neighborhood watch volunteer, is pleading not guilty to a charge that could carry a life sentence if convicted. He claims he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.
A 44-day delay in Zimmerman’s arrest led to protests around the nation. Protesters questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was investigating the case seriously since Martin was a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Judge Debra Nelson has said she will keep the identities of the selected jurors anonymous but she rejected a defense request to sequester the initial jury pool of 500 residents.
On the second day of jury selection, Juror “B-35,” a middle-aged black man who owns vending machines, described protests last year over Martin’s shooting as “saber-rattling.” He wondered why there weren’t protests over the fatal shootings of other African-American men in Sanford, the Orlando suburb where Martin was killed in February 2012. He also said he believed Zimmerman deserved his day in court.
“I think they politicized it and made it a racial issue, and I didn’t like that,” said Juror “B-35.”I wasn’t agreeing with the racial connotation.”
Only eight potential jurors over the past two days had been interviewed by the lunch break Tuesday.
Juror “B-7,” a middle-aged white man, said he didn’t think Florida’s so-called stand-your-ground law was necessary in the state given other self-defense laws that were in place prior to its passage. The law allows a person to invoke self-defense if they feel a fatal shooting is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
Zimmerman, who is claiming self-defense, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Juror “B-7″ also said he thought news media coverage of the case had been “speculative” and devoid of hard facts.
Zimmerman followed Martin through a gated community where the neighborhood watch volunteer lived, called 911 and then got out of his vehicle to follow the teen, despite being not to do so by a dispatcher.
Juror “B-51, ” a white female retiree, said her first impression of the case was “sad” for both sides. When asked if she though Zimmerman had done anything wrong by getting out of his truck, she said, “Certainly, he didn’t wait. Maybe the police didn’t come quick enough. I don’t know.”
Attorneys need to find six jurors and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases, when the death penalty is being considered.
Defense attorneys asked potential jurors if being isolated during the trial would be a hardship, indicating they plan to ask Nelson to sequester the jury.
Potential jurors who make it past the initial round of questioning focusing on what they know about the case will face later rounds of questions from attorneys.
After reciting details about the case she had heard in the news, Juror “B-51″ told the attorneys that they’re going to have a hard time finding jurors who haven’t heard about the case and can only hope they find residents who can keep an open mind.
“I haven’t lived under a rock for the past year,” she said, “It’s pretty hard for people not to have gotten some information.”
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