George Zimmerman Jury Trial Launches Monday

By: By Erin Donaghue, CBS News (Posted by Amanda Lanum)
By: By Erin Donaghue, CBS News (Posted by Amanda Lanum)

(CBS) -- Lawyers in the George Zimmerman murder trial may face a tricky jury selection process because the typical "conservative, law-and-order" juror usually favored by prosecutors may sympathize with the former neighborhood watch captain, experts say.

Jury selection launches Monday in the case, with six jurors and two alternates expected to be chosen from a potential jury pool of about 500. Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the February, 2012 shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin during an altercation in a Sanford, Fla. gated community.

Zimmerman says he killed Martin in self-defense after the teen attacked him, but prosecutors are expected to argue Zimmerman trailed Martin and started the confrontation after he identified the teen as an intruder in the community.

"This is one of these topsy-turvy cases where the conservative/liberal split kind of flips upside down," said Jeffrey Abramson, law and government professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. "The prosecution usually favors 'law-and-order' jurors who are pro-conviction, but in this case, it's very possible that those jurors with conservative backgrounds might sympathize with vigilante justice and the right to carry arms.... it's very difficult to pin down who is a good juror for which side because of this flip."

Jurors are likely to be questioned closely about their views on gun ownership and race, and whether or not they have been victims of crime, Abramson said. The prosecution may seek to eliminate jurors with personal experience with assaults, he said, since they could sympathize with Zimmerman.

Though the case has drawn heavy debate about race -- Martin was black, and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic - Abramson said a larger issue at play in choosing potential jurors will be their attitudes towards the rights of a community to police itself.

"How reasonable is it to justifiably be suspicious of someone who is quote on quote, 'on the outside,' who doesn't seem to belong?" Abramson said.

The defense, he said, will likely seek out jurors sympathetic to the notion of self-enforcement, while the prosecution "will look for people who think that's really a cover up for unreasonable suspicion of African Americans."

Monday, the first group of 100 to 200 potential jurors is expected to report to the criminal courthouse in Seminole County, Florida and begin to fill out juror questionnaires, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The jury selection process is expected to take one to three weeks, reports the paper.

Though it's not clear whether jurors will be sequestered once the jury is empaneled, jurors' identities will be kept secret and they'll be referred to only by number. Jurors will not be photographed during the trial.

Because the case has been the subject of intense media scrutiny, pre-trial publicity will almost certainly be at issue as jurors are questioned about their knowledge of the case. But experts say that despite the spotlight, it may not be difficult to find jurors without pre-conceived notions of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, or the events of Feb. 26, 2012.

Florida criminal defense attorney Brian Tannebaum, president of the Florida Association of Bar Defense Lawyers and past president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he doesn't sense that Zimmerman is as vilified in the public eye as Casey Anthony, a Florida mother who was acquitted of killing her daughter after her case drew the national spotlight.

"The more people have heard about this case, the more questions they seem to have," Tannebaum said. "'Should he have pulled the trigger? I don't know, I wasn't there, I don't know what happened.' I think we're going to be able to find a jury who can put all the publicity issues aside."


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 210814571 - wibw.com/a?a=210814571
Gray Television, Inc.