SANFORD, Fla. - Jury selection was put on hold Monday so Judge Debra Nelson can tackle a major evidence issue in the George Zimmerman trial.
Zimmerman is accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in his Sanford neighborhood in February 2012. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and claims he shot Martin in self-defense.
After lunch, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda kept potential juror H27 on the stand for more than hour as the juror talked about what he thought of Martin and how he donated $20 toward Zimmerman’s defense fund.
It was the first encounter for attorneys with a potential juror who had donated to the fund.
"It just seemed like he was underdog," the potential juror said of Zimmerman. "He couldn't go to work. He had to go into hiding. I just felt sorry for him."
H27 said he believes Zimmerman’s shooting of the 17-year-old Martin was justified as self-defense and that most teens that age feel invincible. He went on to say he feels Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson make a living stirring up trouble and he doesn’t believe the shooting was race related.
He was dismissed from the jury after questioning.
Earlier in the day, a defense attorney questioned a potential juror extensively about her racial views on the case and whether she was bothered by protests led by civil rights leaders after Zimmerman's fatal shooting of Martin.
A 44-day delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests around the nation. Protesters questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was investigating the case seriously because Martin was a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
The third juror questioned Monday morning was a middle-aged white woman who described the protests as unsettling and speculated that there could be further marches in Sanford if Zimmerman isn't convicted of second-degree murder. The jury candidate, who said she has a biracial grandson, also said she was unsure whether Zimmerman racially profiled Martin because it was dark and the Miami teen was wearing a hoodie, possibly making it difficult to see his race.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was walking through the community of townhouses where he lived when he spotted Martin walking back from a convenience store to a home belonging to his father's fiance. Zimmerman called a nonemergency police number, followed Martin and at some point there was a fight between them that left Martin dead.
Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense.
When asked if she thought it was wrong when Zimmerman ignored a police dispatcher's advice not to follow Martin, she answered "yes."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are seeking a pool of 40 potential jurors who have been screened for any influence of pretrial publicity before moving to a second round of questioning. By mid-morning Monday, they had interviewed 45 potential jurors over the past week.
Also interviewed Monday morning were an older white man who said he didn't have an opinion the case and a middle-aged black man who was dismissed after he said he would have trouble passing judgment on someone because of his religion.
Juror H13 said she had a lot of questions.
"I wonder why he had a gun if he was doing neighborhood watch? Did Mr. Zimmerman see him face forward or walking away from him?" asked juror H13.
H 13 said she hasn't formed an opinion, mostly because she wants to know what happened that led Zimmerman to kill Martin.
She described being concerned for her grandchildren when she heard about the shooting and feels for Martin's grieving family.
Follow Kathi Belich on Twitter at @KBelichWFTV for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial.