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June 20, 2013

Jurors reflect on complexities of Zimmerman case

SANFORD, Fla. — Prosecutors and defense attorneys personally interviewed 58 potential jurors over seven days about their media exposure to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman last year in Sanford, Fla.  They have asked 40 jury candidates to return for the next round of questioning and dismissed scores of others.

They eventually must whittle down the pool to six jurors and four alternates who will decide Zimmerman’s second-degree murder case.

The case has prompted strong emotions about race, equal justice and gun control, issues that have come to light during jury selection.

Jurors’ identities are being kept confidential during the trial that is expected to last up to a month. Of the 40 potential jurors, 27 are white, seven are black, three are mixed race and three are Hispanic. Twenty-four are women and 16 are men.

Below is a look at some of the more notable statements by potential jurors — identified just by number — throughout selection process that’s in its second week.

“There was fault on both sides as far as I can see, two people being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” — Juror B-30, a 65-year-old white man with hearing problems who wasn’t asked back.

“I haven’t lived under a rock for the past year. It’s pretty hard for people not to have gotten some information.” — Juror B-51, a white woman retiree, asked about what she knew about the high-profile case. She was told to return.

“I think they politicized it and made it a racial issue, and I didn’t like that. I wasn’t agreeing with the racial connotation.” — Juror B-35, a middle-aged black man who owns vending machines, answering questions about civil rights leaders who came to Sanford for demonstrations. He was asked back.

“I believe every American has a right to defend himself. I think the more people armed, the better.” — Juror E-81, a middle-aged white woman who was dismissed after saying she thought Martin was going down the wrong path and that Zimmerman was protecting his neighborhood.

“A young man lost his life. Another man is fighting for his life. No one is a winner in this case.” — Juror I-24, a white woman in her early 60s, when asked to sum up the case. She was asked back.

“Do they know what they’re in for?” — Juror E-7, moments before being given a trespass warning and told not to return to the courthouse until after the trial after complaining about the jury process outside the assembly room. During his interview, the painter-musician admitted to the judge that he had posted on Facebook about the case.

“I want to be there for America and do this.” — Juror H-35, a white woman in her 20s, when asked if serving on the sequestered jury would create a hardship. She was told to return.

“I still don’t understand why it’s a high-profile case.” — Juror H-7, a white man in his early 60s who was asked back.

“It’s a service paying back to my adopted country, citizenship and all that.” — Juror P-67, a Hispanic man in his 40s, when asked if he wanted to serve on the jury. He was told to return.

“It just seemed like he was an underdog  ... He couldn’t go to work. He had to go into hiding. I just felt sorry for him.” — Juror H-27, a middle-aged white man who admitted he gave $20 to Zimmerman’s legal defense fund. He was dismissed.

“My impressions are that you had a family grieving for the loss of their son. You had another family grieving for the potential loss of their loved one to this process. You had supporters on both sides and some people were very angry.” — Juror H-81, a mixed-race man in his 50s, when asked his impression of the case. He was asked back.

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