Jury selection in the search for a panel of six jurors and four alternates began Monday in the high-profile murder case in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
There was the man who was caught on a lie over a Facebook post, the woman with the secret agenda, the landscaper who had already decided George Zimmerman was guilty and the patron of the arts who was concerned about Sanford’s image in the news this week.
As of Thursday morning, 20 candidates made the cut to the next round of questioning. A Miami reporter was asked to leave the courtroom because his phone rang during proceedings, and Trayvon’s parents were upset over the slain teen’s “street attitude” cable news comment.
“Trayvon is not on trial here,” Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said Wednesday afternoon. “He is the victim.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys must select 10 more jurors to begin in-depth questioning with a jury of 30. The initial questioning is focused on the potential juror’s exposure to media reports and the opinions of their family and friends.
Special prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked potential jurors repeatedly if they thought the media had a "tendency" to insert opinion in their reports.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara told potential jurors the goal of the questioning was to find out what opinions they had "formed" based on their "exposure" to the media.
Most of the candidates said they did not think race was an issue.
George Zimmerman is a white Hispanic. Martin was African American. The killing of the Dr. Michael M. Krop High School student sparked nationwide, racially-charged protests and was highly publicized before Zimmerman’s arrest.
Since Monday, prosecutors and defense attorneys have been questioning possible jurors about the effect that the case’s publicity has had on their opinions.
As of Thursday morning, 75 potential jurors were dismissed. Some were dismissed because of their families depended on their income or they had toddlers, babies or elderly relatives waiting back at home.
Other jurors were dismissed after questioning in the courtroom. On Monday, attorneys questioned four possible jurors and only three made the cut. On Tuesday, ten were questioned. On Wednesday, another ten were questioned, but only six made the cut.
During the process, Judge Dana Nelson and defense attorney Don West have had disagreements over some of his questions, which Nelson said should be focused on publicity.
Experts estimate the trial could begin as early as Monday.