SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A 65-year-old who said both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were at fault in Martin’s fatal shooting was among four potential jurors interviewed by attorneys during the first day of Zimmerman’s trial on second-degree murder charges.
Jury selection was expected to continue Tuesday as prosecuting and defense attorneys question dozens of potential jurors, a process that is expected to take all week, if not longer.
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.
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. The familiarity of the first four jurors questioned Monday ranged from specific details of the February 2012 encounter to vague outlines of the incident and the circumstances that led to the deadly encounter.
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,” he said. “Two people who instigated something that could have been avoided.”
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.”
The first group of 100 potential jurors filled out questionnaires about themselves and their ability to serve before they were verbally questioned. Prosecutors and defense attorneys are trying to find six objective members and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases, when the death penalty is being considered.
None of the jury candidates who were questioned said it would be a hardship to serve on the panel.
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.
Thus far, the experts have reached mixed conclusions. Defense attorneys don’t want them to testify. No testimony took place Monday.
The trial is being held in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, Fla., the scene of massive protests last year by people who were angered that authorities waited 44 days before charging Zimmerman.
There is no dispute Zimmerman shot an unarmed Martin during a fight on a rainy night in February 2012.
Under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, Zimmerman, 29, could shoot Martin in self-defense if it was necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.