SANFORD, Fla. - The court on Tuesday has reached 40 potential jurors needed to advance to a second round of questioning for jury selection in George Zimmerman’s murder trial.
Zimmerman, 29, of Sanford, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, saying he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense in February 2012.
Out of the 40 who are moving on, 24 are women and 16 men. The 40 are made up of 25 white, eight Hispanic, six black and one mixed-race potential jurors.
One of the potential jurors who made it through is a middle-aged black man who criticized Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for coming to town and portraying the deadly shooting as racially motivated.
One is the middle-aged white woman who said Martin never would have been shot to death if he wasn't in Sanford because he was kicked out of school.
Another is a native Mexican who appeared to be eager to serve on the jury as his civic duty. He said he remembers that Martin was not armed. He also questioned whether the teenager really did do something suspicious before Zimmerman called police about him. He said 70 percent of his friends believed Zimmerman had no right to follow and shoot Martin.
Potential jurors were asked whether they believed there is a racial component to the case, since Martin is black and Zimmerman is Hispanic and white.
The defense asked potential juror I5, a
middle-aged black man, a more direct question about race.
“I'll just say it, did you ever wonder if George Zimmerman had been black, would he have been arrested the night the shooting took place,” asked defense attorney Don West.
“I don't think so, not that I'm aware of. I generally don't think like that,” said I5.
A Hispanic woman in her 20s had an interesting response when the prosecutor asked if she had an opinion as to Zimmerman's guilt.
“I guess so,” said potential juror H69. “That's an odd way of asking the question."
“What do you mean by that?” asked prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda.
“Everyone is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” said H69.
Later in the afternoon, potential juror I24, a white middle-aged woman talked about how the stories in the media changed about whether Zimmerman was injured and about how Martin was first portrayed as an innocent victim and recently, how he had gotten into trouble at school before the shooting.
"He's a teenager, he's a 17-year-old kid. I mean, no child is perfect,” I24 said.
She went on to say, “A young man lost his life. Another man is fighting for his life, and no one is a winner in this case."
On Tuesday, potential juror I14 was dismissed mysteriously after two things happened in open court.
One was a question about whether his mother supported one side or the other; the other event involved a laptop and the Internet.
During questioning of that potential juror, a member of the defense team apparently found something online and took it up to the bench. Once Judge Debra Nelson saw it, she told the young jury candidate to leave the courtroom.
The man did not want to talk with Channel 9 after his dismissal and was escorted by a deputy to his vehicle.
Now that the pool has been whittled down to 40, group questioning will begin. The questioning will also get more complicated.
Another of the potential jurors being questioned Tuesday said he doesn’t know how high-profile cases can truly be fair because defendants are already tried in the media, and he does not see how Zimmerman's day in court will be any different.
"People losing their life; it's sad but it happens all the time," he said.
The second potential juror of the morning was explaining why she didn't pay close attention to Martin's death.
The woman, who is five and a half months pregnant, said she wouldn't want to be away from family for possibly a month, but said if forced, she could.
The first man questioned Tuesday, known as H81, also said he wasn't volunteering to be picked, but he could be impartial.
"You had a family grieving for the loss of their son. You have another family grieving the potential loss of their son," said H81.
H81 said he does not think many people can truthfully say they don't know about the case.
"I do wonder what happens to jurors after the fact," said H81.
H81 also brought to the court's attention that he has two civil cases pending with Nelson. He said that wouldn't impact his ability to be fair.
Another woman said she did not know much about the case, and just got a TV within the last few weeks.
Those who are picked for the jury will have their names kept private for at least some time after the trial, Nelson ruled Monday. The judge granted a defense motion to keep information on the jurors confidential after the trial, but she said she would wait to decide for how long.