Tomorrow begins the second week of jury selection in Florida v. Zimmerman, and we here at Legal Insurrection will once again be following the process on an all-day, live coverage basis. We’ll host a live stream of the courtroom and a rolling Twitter feed of selected tweeters throughout the day, post about the more important breaking events as they occur, and provide an end-of-day wrap-up each evening, in the same manner as last week.
 
In preparation for the the Court’s return to session tomorrow morning, I though it might be useful to provide a brief recap of the more notable events of the prior week so that we can all start off Monday morning on the same page.

Day One: Monday, June 10

Denial of Defense Motion for Continuance

The Court’s first day of jury selection began with a last, final motion from the defense for a continuation. They based their request on the fact that the State had only days before delivered them a large corpus of new discovery materials including thousands of pictures, the State’s own expert witnesses had not yet completed their discovery obligations, and that they had not yet had an opportunity to depose Benjamin Crump, as ordered by the 5th District Court of Appeals, and would need additional time to both conduct that deposition and follow-up on its revelations. The Court denied the motion peremptorily. It is noteworthy that the denial of a continuance reasonably requested, especially in as serious a case as a murder trial, is frequently found on appeal to be an abuse of the trial court’s discretion, and grounds for reversal of conviction.

The Jury Pool

A pool of 100 prospective jurors completed questionnaires which were then screened separately by the Court, the State, and the defense. From these small groups of prospective jurors would be selected at a time and individually subject to a preliminary voir dire. The sole purpose of this preliminary voir dire is to identify any issues around pre-trial publicity, and questioning by the lawyers was constrained accordingly. The prospective jurors who graduate from this initial voir dire will later be subject to a typical comprehensive voir dire.

Jury Questioning

Due to the time lost to screening the juror questionnaires, today saw only four prospective jurors subject to voir dire. There was no particular revelation in the course of the day, except the general observation that the massive disinformation campaign that has been waged by pro-Martin factions has been remarkably effective at creating a false public narrative and as a result achieving a profound poisoning of the jury pool. In particular, it was common for the prospective jurors to recall Martin as a “kid” rather than the 17-year-old six-foot-plus high school football player he was. Similarly, it was common for them to recall that Zimmerman had “chased” or “followed” Trayvon contrary to police instructions, a claim that I (as well as others) have thoroughly debunked based on the facts in evidence (Law of Self Defense:  Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman “chase” Martin against police orders?).

Day Two: Tuesday, June 11

Today, the first full day devoted to jury selection, saw eleven prospective jurors undergo the preliminary voir dire focused on pre-trial publicity. Most of the jurors had heard at least something about the case, although only one (E54) could be described as well-informed on the matter. It was again remarkable how much of what the prospective jurors recalled about the case has since been debunked as disinformation or outright false, despite which it has found and enduring and apparently secure niche in the public narrative surrounding this case.

It is known that each side can strike an unlimited number of jurors for cause. Alternatively, each side also has 10 peremptory strikes they can choose to strike jurors without cause. It is unknown if either side has used a peremptory challenge to date.

Day Three: Wednesday, June 12

Wednesday saw the preliminary voir dire of ten more prospective jurors.

Undoubtedly the most interesting of the prospective jurors to date was E7. He claimed to not yet have formed an opinion on the case, and that until the day Zimmerman was arrested he didn’t have an opinion on whether he should have been. It was discovered, however, that this juror had been posting heated pro-Martin sentiments on a Facebook page run by the “Coffee Party Progressives,” and in that post he had advocated for Zimmerman’s arrest a full two weeks before the arrest occurred.

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E7, later identified by media sources as Jerry Counelis, was dismissed from the jury pool . . . but, as we were to discover on Friday, he didn’t go far.

Other interesting prospective jurors were E73, who felt she could never own a gun and could not conceive of being armed, and R39 who expressed the belief that “murder’s murder, no matter what. Even if it’s self-defense.  Self-defense doesn’t make it right to kill somebody.”

There was also, of course, the usual recollections of disinformation, such as the myth that Zimmerman pursued Martin.

Day Four: Thursday, June 13

Another 10 prospective jurors were moved through the voir dire process again today. The biggest news of the day, however, when Judge Nelson 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.

The most interesting juror of the day was E81. She was open and direct and well-informed about the case. Although she professed to be able to be a fair and impartial juror and make her decisions based only on the evidence presented in court, based on what she had heard to date she believed that Zimmerman was innocent, and should simply be allowed to go home. If she was to find him guilty, she said, the State would have to prove otherwise. At one point de la Rionda asked if she would require that he perform some act of “magic” in order for her to conclude that Zimmerman was guilty, to which she later responded “the truth is not magic.” he 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.”

Another interesting juror was B34, who, like R39 the day before professed to believe that he believes Zimmerman was guilty because “nobody can take nobody’s life.”

Day Five: Friday, June 14

Perhaps the day’s most interesting news happened outside the court room. Juror E7, since identified by media sources as Jerry P. Counelis, who was dismissed from the jury pool on Wednesday for apparently misleading the court, was back at the court house today. We’ve done a separate write up just on Mr. Counelis, so if you’re interested in more just click the link in the header above.

“Florida v. Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George”

Another unexpected bit of news today was the release by Robert Zimmerman, George’s father, of an e-book entitled as in the header above, covering the travails of his son through the current crises. I’ve downloaded a copy to my Kindle, and will comment as soon as I’ve had some time to “flip” through it.

Prior to the start of today’s voir dire there was also some discussion between the Court and counsel about the need to finish the uncompleted Frye hearing of the prior week. Although no definite conclcusion was reached within the hearing of observers, the sense was that the Frye hearing was likely to be completed this coming week.

A total of seven prospective jurors were put through the preliminary voir dire process today. A couple of the jurors mentioned various parts of Florida’s self defense laws, including Stand Your Ground and the Castle Doctrine, but expressed only a partial understanding of how they might apply to this case.

One prospective juror, H6, seemed particularly sympathetic to Zimmerman, and was one of the few to comment upon the slanted media coverage of the case, especially at the start. Although he said that he hadn’t yet formed an opinion on the case, he recalled seeing pictures of Zimmerman’s injuries, hearing that Zimmerman had called the police to report that Martin was “someone suspicious.” He also recalled hearing a recording of Zimmerman’s non-emergency call and thinking that “he sounded like he was concerned about his neighborhood.”

Well, that’s the re-cap of the first week of jury selection in Florida v. Zimmerman. Be sure to check in with us when the Court resumes session at 9AM Monday (or thereabouts) as we once again provide all-day live coverage of the case.


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense” which shows you how to successfully fight the 20-to-life legal battle everyone faces after defending themselves (second edition shipping in June – save 30% and pre-order TODAY!).  Many thanks to the Professor for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!

 

 
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