SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman‘s defense attorney asked a pool of 40 potential jurors on Thursday whether they truly believed a defendant was innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the first time the defense has questioned those who made it to the second round of jury selection.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said screening the prospective jurors for any biases or prejudices “is probably as critical if not more critical than the evidence.”
“If you bring that into the courtroom, then what we can’t get is a fair verdict,” he said.
Zimmerman, 29, says he acted in self-defense in shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in the central Florida community of Sanford where Zimmerman lived.
Martin’s shooting death on Feb. 26, 2012 — and the initial decision not to charge him — led to public outrage and demonstrations around the nation, with some accusing Sanford police of failing to thoroughly investigate the shooting.
Prosecutors have said Zimmerman, while a neighborhood watch volunteer for his community, profiled the black teenager as Martin was walking back from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancee. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.