Today the Court continued its preliminary questioning of prospective jurors, moving through 10 candidates by the end of the day.  As was the case yesterday, questions were limited to how much exposure the prospective juror had to the case through the media and other channels, as well as how that may have impacted their opinion of the case

Court Announces That Jury Will Be Sequestered for Duration of Trial

The biggest event of the day, however, occurred shortly after the lunch recess when Judge Nelson’s announced from the bench that she would be ordering the sequestration of the jury for the duration of the trial,.  She based this decision on the fact that both parties agreed the trial was likely to take two to four weeks, as opposed to the four to six weeks that many had anticipated.   It appeared that she had been inclined to sequester the jury if the sequestration period was not to be too long.  With the agreement on the likely shorter duration of the trial, the balance swung in favor of sequestration.
 


Now, to a quick summary of today’s events.  In the past we’ve presented the summary of each prospective juror in the order in which they were questioned.  We’re going to change that up here slightly, because one of the prospective jurors was particularly interesting.  We’re talking, of course, about prospective juror E81.

Prospective Juror E81

A white woman in her 30’s, E81 might have a soft voice but she was tough as nails, once calling de la Rionda out when he repeated a question she’d already answered. She frankly stated that she had an opinion of the case, and looking directly at Zimmerman stated that “he should go home.” She believed, based on his injuries, which she recalled in detail, that he was “just defending himself” when he shot Trayvon. She believed in his innocence based on the facts she knew and said the state would have to “prove to her otherwise.”

She knew a significant amount about the case, including the pictures on Trayvon’s phone of marijuana and a gun, and that he had gotten into trouble a few times in the past. She mentioned pictures she had seen of him refereeing a street fight, and believed that he was training to be a street fighter. She felt that if he was high during the night in question that could help explain why it went so badly. She believed that Trayvon was “looking for a reason to fight,” and Zimmerman was working to protect his neighborhood. She said she believed that Trayvon knew he was under observation by Martin, and that Trayvon could have been the aggressor.

She was careful here to say that she felt for his mother and believed she loved him dearly, but that Trayvon might have been getting into the wrong crowd, “going down the wrong path, without his family knowing. She mentioned horseback riding pictures and other images that led her to believe his mother tried very hard with him. She blamed his father a bit, though, saying boys need their fathers and if they’re not there they go astray. She based the idea that he was not there on the fact that the father could provide no pictures to the memorial service.

She explicitly stated that she did not want to be a juror. She was wary of the notoriety that came from being involved in the case and feared having “a bulls eye on her back.” She said she would rather her 15 minutes of fame come from “winning the lottery.” She also greatly feared being sequestered, hated the idea of not sleeping in her own bed next to her husband, and even said the thought made “the room’s walls come in on me.” She said she was relieved when she heard that Judge Nelson had ruled that the jurors would not be sequestered. Then when she saw on the questionnaire that sequestration was still on the table she” felt the walls closing in.” [NOTE: Later in the day Judge Nelson announced that she would, in fact, be sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.] She was also concerned about her anonymity and safety, saying that if she were a juror, “I’m going to walk out of here with a bulls-eye on my back.”

As the wife of a retired policeman she had strong views about the 2nd amendment. She believed that everyone who was not a felon or mentally unsound should be allowed to carry a gun, and that the more good people that carried the safer society was from crime. She felt that Zimmerman had a right to carry his gun, assuming he had a permit and it was lawfully obtained, and that he also had the right to use it in self-defense. She mentioned that she was a huge proponent of the Castle Doctrine and felt safer knowing people around her had a gun.

At one point de la Rionda asked whether he would have to “do magic” to convince her of Zimmerman’s guilt. She took offense to the term, clearly stating a few times that “you used that word, not me.” She told de la Rionda that “You’d have to work really hard to change my opinion,” and “You’re gonna have to really prove to me that you’ve got a good case.” She also said that she would not hold the state to a higher burden of proof than what the judge said.

On questioning by O’Mara she said that “the truth is not magic,” and that she only needs to be “shown proof of the truth.” “I believe [George Zimmerman] is a man who was defending himself,” but if the evidence shows otherwise, “that’s what the truth is.” She told O’Mara that she understood “that if [a fact] was not presented to her in court, then it’s not evidence,” and that she will only consider the evidence.

Humorously, she noted that “Everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, but I’d rather my 15 minutes were because I won the lottery,” rather than being picked for this jury.

Following the defense’s questioning of E81, both parties engaged in a very lengthy bench conference with Judge Nelson. The topic of conversation is not definitively known, but it seems a safe bet that they were arguing whether E81 could be dismissed for cause or whether the State would be required to use one of its 10 peremptory challenges in order to have her dismissed.

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From here we’ll return to summarizing the remaining prospective jurors in the order in which they were questioned, with a brief comment to indicate the original position of E81 in the sequence:

Prospective Juror E50

A retired white man who calls himself a ‘West Virginia boy,’ E50 lost a child to paranoid schizophrenia.  His only reaction to the shooting was a “sadness for both families.” and viewed it as a tragedy.  He was at ease when questioned, cracking jokes about missing his golf game if sequestered.  He has a daughter at home as well as a 4-year-old grandson

Prospective Juror E75

A very young man who was only a junior in high school when the shooting occured, E75 has a unique view on how the event and aftermath were discussed by his (then) juvenile classmates and friends. A classic youth, he doesn’t watch the news or read newspapers, instead getting his information from “Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.”He says he knows that one person died and two people were involved but “that’s it.” Believes he knows so little because he couldn’t trust where he got his information from.  Says every day he went to school more and more kids got involved in the conversation and got excited about it.  After awhile the teachers were forced to “shut down” the conversation, saying it became too charged and inappropriate for school. He says during the increased heightening of feeling over the matter some obviously erroneous information was added to the conversation, such as claims that Trayvon was white.  He also said each day more and more people would claim to know Trayvon personally. He says the make-up of the argument was 70% pro-Trayvon and 30% pro-Zimmerman.

Prospective Juror E81

It was at this point in the day that prospective juror E81 was questioned, as described above.

Prospective Juror K80

A white female in her 40’s, she has kids at home and was unsure how she would get them to daycare, etc. if she was a juror. She said that she would “figure it out. I always do.” but could not give specifics on how she may do that. She does not have family in town. K80’s “testimony” was not very significant. She avoided the news, thinking it focuses on things that are “gruesome” and that those topics are just too sad to watch. She did know that Zimmerman had a defense fund that was raising money and that Martin was not from Central Florida, but only knew that Trayvon died in a scuffle that day. She believed that this trial should not be about race, but rather that “a terrible accident occurred.” This was the only information on the case she could provide.

Judge Nelson Announces that the Jury is to be Sequestered for Duration

Prospective Juror K95

A white woman in her mid 30’s, K95 has a raspy voice and no-nonsense tone. A full time student she speculated whether she might be able to get her classwork done while sequestered by takes classes online and thinks it may be possible to do both. K95 knows very little about the case. She recalled a “young gentleman” had died, but hasn’t made any conclusions because she found the media coverage to be self-contradictory (i.e. one station would say one thing, the other would say the exact opposite) so she wasn’t sure what to believe. A self described “research buff” and “fact finder” she says she was turned off by the “racial talk” because she didn’t think they were acting from a knowledge of the facts. She says she didn’t form any conclusions for herself specifically because she didn’t bother to research what happened either. She mentioned that she was surprised that “big names” came into town, referring to Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson. She figured they did it because the Sanford was a great place to head down, do some business, then combine it with a trip to Disney World.

Prospective Juror N18

N18 is a Godly man. When asked where he gets his information from, he replied “I read the bible, not newspapers.” Whatever question was asked of him, he sought to reframe it around God’s laws, and said that he will follow God’s will. He said he “believes in the 10 commandments.” and that “the 10 commandments say ‘don’t kill.'” N18 said that everyone has a right to defend themselves and if he were attacked he “would defend himself too.” The defense asked that if he did, ultimately, decide that Mr. Zimmerman acted in self defense, could he find him not guilty “by man’s law?” He said “yes.” Yet, in contradiction, N18 also said that he had an opinion at one time that Mr. Zimmerman was guilty. When asked why he had this opinion he said, “according to the news, they said he [is] guilty,” and that “if I go out and shoot someone I am guilty.” When asked Zimmerman was guilty of murder because he shot Martin, N18 answered “yes”. At this point the prosecution objected because the questioning was no longer about media influence. The remainder of the testimony simply confirmed that N18 had almost no media exposure, and that he preferred to keep his head bent to prayer and the bible rather than the news headlines. One other perhaps pertinent note about N18 is that he suffers from a disability related to his back. Often the defense apologized for how long it was taking to question him, and asked whether he suffered from the disability via headaches and other pain. The man says he does but he accepts it and can function.

Prospective Juror B34

B34 was in and out quickly. He said that he had decided Zimmerman was guilty because, as he put it, ” “I believe nobody can take nobody’s life.” When asked if this would influence his decisions or if he could be unbiased about the facts of the case he said “no.” They ended the questioning there.

Prospective Juror B67

B67’s questioning may have been even shorter than B34. She also knew very little of the case and at first looked like a great potential juror, until the nature of sequestration was made clear to her. At that point she cited significant hardship and was let go.

Prospective Juror P67

P67 is a Catholic, Hispanic man who, unlike the rest, wants to be picked. He says it is a way to give back to his country, would want someone to do it for him, and doesn’t mind being sequestered. “why not?” he said. He appears to know so little about the case he didn’t even recognize Trayvon’s name. Yet, he posted on Facebook when he got the summons that he might be on this trial, saying he did so to illicit opinion on the matter from his family (whom he says mostly makes up his Facebook friends). He said he got no real advice as the result.

Prospective Juror G14

G14 is a white female apparently in her 50s. She recalled seeing pictures of Zimmerman’s head injuries, and of Martin in his hoodie. “I recall that there was a lot of anger, a lot of people upset,” that Zimmerman “was not arrested immediately.” When asked what she thought about Zimmerman not being arrested right away, she responded “I just assumed that there was a reason that he wasn’t.” She expressed the sentiment that there were out-of-town protesters who were prompting “a discussion that didn’t need to be had,” but said that she wouldn’t hold her feelings about protesters, etc. against either side. She also said that “It wasn’t really known what had happened,” and that people speculating “was not really helping the matter.” She recalled hearing about the defense’s motion for a continuance. She also recalled that what “I thought I heard was that” Zimmerman “was asked not to follow him, that the police were coming.”

Prospective Juror B65

The last prospective juror seen for the day was B65, a black female, who was a return candidate who had appeared only briefly yesterday. She explained that her job would only pay for her first 40 hours of jury duty, and that a two to four week duty would represent a great financial hardship for her. She was excused.

At that point the court recessed until 9AM tomorrow.

Well, that’s it for today’s coverage of day three of the Zimmerman trial.  Be sure to check back in right when Court goes back into session tomorrow, shortly after 9AM.


Andrew F. Branca is a MA lawyer with a long-standing interest in the law of self defense.  He authored the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense” (second edition shipping June 22–save 30% and pre-order TODAY!), and manages the Law of Self Defense web site and blog.  Many thanks to the Professor for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!