A jury has been selected for the Florida trial of George Zimmerman, who is accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin last year. Zimmerman’s attorneys will argue that he killed Martin in self-defense.
Martin was black, and Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic, and the judge is trying to make sure that racial tension does not affect the outcome of the trial. Today, the judge set limits on what prosecutors could tell the jury in their opening statement:
Prosecutors can argue in opening statements that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin based on factors such as age or clothing before he shot the unarmed 17-year-old, but they cannot say he was profiled based on race. . .
Judge Debra Nelson made the ruling ahead of Monday’s expected opening statements in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial.
Defense attorneys had asked the judge to prohibit prosecutors from using a series of words in opening statements that they deemed inflammatory. Those words included “profiled,” “vigilante,” “wannabe cop,” and that Zimmerman had confronted Martin, who was black. Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic.
The judge said all of those statements may be used, provided that race is not discussed if the issue of profiling is brought up.
Prosecutor John Guy had argued that there were a number of ways someone could be profiled other than race.
“That is not a racially charged term unless it’s made so, and we don’t intend to make it a racially charged term,” Guy said. “There are a number of avenues someone can be profiled in any one way or combination. We don’t intend to say he was solely profiled because of race.”
All six members of the jury are women, and none of them are black:
After Thursday’s hearing, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara was asked what he would say to people concerned there were no black jurors.
“People can look at it and have this response, that there’s no blacks on the jury, or no this or no that, or no men on the jury,” he said. “Tell me that we did something wrong in the process and I’ll agree with you.”
Prosecutors refused to comment for the duration of the trial.
Two of the jurors recently moved to the area — one from Iowa and one from Chicago — and two are involved with rescuing animals as their hobbies.
One juror had a prior arrest, but she said it was disposed of and she thought she was treated fairly. Two jurors have guns in their homes. All of their names have been kept confidential and the panel will be sequestered for the trial.
For more on each member of the jury, continue reading here.
Zimmerman’s case, which has captivated the country, has put the community on edge:
Sixteen months after the killing, the area remains unsettled by the discord that erupted here last year and spread throughout the country — and is hopeful that civility prevails during the four- to six-week trial and beyond the eventual verdict.
“There’s kind of a little nervous energy,” says Mayor Jeff Triplett. “I equate it to having butterflies in your stomach. You don’t know what’s going to happen. Everyone’s saying the right message of ‘let the court system work.’ ”. . .
Jerry Breeden, who moved from Tennessee to nearby DeLand last year, views the media and racial bias as major problems. He wonders why there wasn’t national attention on the recent retrial of the African American men who carjacked, tortured, raped and killed a young white couple in Knoxville six years ago.
“If that couple had been a young black couple and it had been hoodlum whites who did that — they would’ve burned Knoxville down,” says Breeden, who retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
When the trial starts later this week or next, the jury will be instructed to weigh only the evidence. Race, however, remains an uncertain force on the scales of justice.
For past coverage of this trial, continue reading here.