• Opening statements to begin Monday in George Zimmerman trial


    SANFORD, Fla. - A jury of six women, five of them white and the other Hispanic, was picked Thursday to decide the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman.

    Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday at 9 a.m.

    Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, said he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in self-defense. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys chose the panel of six jurors after almost two weeks of jury selection. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases when the death penalty is being considered.

    The six jurors were culled from a pool of 40 jury candidates who made it into a second round of jury questioning.

    The chosen jurors are B29, B76, B37, B51, E6 and E40. Alternates jurors were identified as E54, B72, E13 and E28.

    Juror E6 made it onto the jury despite the state's repeated efforts to keep her off. She is a white woman who appears to be in her 30s, a mother of two children.

    E6 said she warned her children about Martin's shooting death as an example of what could happen to them when they go out after dark.

    On Thursday, she also revealed she had been a victim of domestic violence.   

    “I did lose bits and pieces for a little while and then things came back to me,” she said.

    The state might have wanted her off because it said Zimmerman changed his story as time went on, using it as evidence of guilt, but that's not the argument the state made Thursday to remove her.

    “She herself, one concern, she'll be focusing on (the) penalties aspect in this case that are irrelevant and should not be concerned by the jurors,” said prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda.

    “This woman now has said sometimes we have to be careful because innocent people are in jail,” said defense attorney Mark O’Mara. “That is a concern we want a juror to have."

     Juror B37 had joked about only using newspaper to line her parrots' cage and that her husband, who's a space industry lawyer, agreed to record her favorite morning show and edit out the parts about the Zimmerman murder case.

    Alternate juror E54 is a middle-aged white man who said his stepson wears hooded sweatshirts similar to the one Martin was wearing the night her was shot.

    WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer believes an all-female jury is statistically very rare and that he's only had one in 35 years of trying cases.

    However, Sheaffer said he believes both sides are happy with all-women, and it’s the panel that Zimmerman accepted.

    Both sides had challenges left to reject the jurors and bring others into the mix, but they didn’t use them.

    Sheaffer believes that's because the others who were farther down the list were less desirable to both sides for one reason or another.

    “The parties have to be happy with the jury that they have,” said Sheaffer. “We have six women, analytically bringing in good life experience and a lot of common sense."

    Two black women were stricken by the defense for not disclosing their exposure to the case.

    The defense told the judge that one woman the state wanted on the jury had not disclosed that she was friends with one of the witnesses in the case.

    One of the potential jurors, E22, attends church where the pastor wrote an editorial to the Orlando Sentinel about supporting Martin. He also delivered a sermon that was pro-Martin and talked about how everyone needed to take a stand and support him.

    Nelson approved the strikes after hearing the evidence.

    The state rejected a black man who said his survival instinct kicked in when he participated in fights. He also said he could find Zimmerman not guilty and still feel sad for the Martin family.

    Before selecting the jurors Thursday, defense attorney Mark O'Mara explored potential jurors' views on whether they thought sympathy should play a role in deciding a case.

    Juror B72, a young Hispanic man, said he wasn't affected by sympathetic people because he's never had many close relationships.

    "So when a person might seem sympathetic, to me it's indifferent," he said.

    O'Mara also asked the jurors about when they thought self-defense could be used. Juror H6, a white man in his 30s, said he thought deadly force could be warranted if a person feels danger.

    "I feel that if you're somewhere you're supposed to be and allowed to be, you should have the right to defend yourself," he said.

    O'Mara met resistance from the judge when he tried to characterize the definition for justifiable use of deadly force.

    De la Rionda objected multiple times during O'Mara's line of questioning, eventually leading to Judge Debra Nelson to twice read what will be the jury instruction once the final jury is selection.

    "I don't want either side to give an interpretation on the law," Nelson said.

    O'Mara said screening the prospective jurors for any biases or prejudices "is probably as critical, if not more critical, than the evidence."

    "If you bring that into the courtroom, then what we can't get is a fair verdict," he said.

    Prosecutors have said Zimmerman, 29, racially profiled Martin as he walked back from a convenience store on Feb. 26, 2012, in the rain, wearing a dark hooded shirt.

    Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

    Several jury candidates were involved with rescuing animals, and the pool included people who compete in arm wrestling, fishing and barbecue competitions.

    Seven potential jurors said they had previously been arrested, but they said their cases had been dropped and they thought they'd been treated fairly. 

    Fourteen candidates said they had been victims of crimes, including four who'd been victims of violent crimes. A white woman in her 50s said it would be difficult for her to keep her experience with a violent crime out of the courtroom.

    The Martin family released a statement regarding the all-female jury Thursday night: "This case has always been about equal justice. Equal justice under the law is not a black value or a white value. It's an American value. With the makeup of this jury, the question of whether every American can get equal justice regardless of who serves on their jury panel will be answered. We expect the jury pool to do their duty and be fair and impartial. 

    We firmly believe that when these jurors see the overwhelming evidence that will be put before them in the coming weeks, they will find George Zimmerman guilty of murder on the night in question."

    Follow Deneige Broom and Kathi Belich on Twitter at @DBroomWFTV and @KBelichWFTV for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial.

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    Opening statements to begin Monday in George Zimmerman trial