The last time I was called for jury duty, it was a criminal case. I had a terrible flu virus at the time, but I still had to wait until eventually being sent home. There was no way any person in that courtroom could have been unaware of my illness. We were all brought into the courtroom together. I don’t remember how many of us there were, but it seems to me it was well over a dozen. Each one of us was asked a handful of questions by each side and that’s as far as I got. When we took our first break, I was sent packing.
I think the Court is given leeway in jury selection, especially in non-capital cases such as this one. It’s second-degree murder George Zimmerman is facing and that’s why it will be a panel of six jurors. Generally, two alternates suffice, but this case is very unusual and high-profile, so Judge Nelson was wise to opt for two more than the norm. There will be 6+4.
From what we saw in the courtroom today, it’s a very tedious process. Aside from early motions, most of the morning and a good chunk of the afternoon — except for lunch, of course — dealt with explaining the process to the 100 jurors brought in for the day; asking them to fill out preliminary questionnaires and to introduce the defendant to them. The judge then went through important legal details with the attorneys while they tried to decipher what some of the people wrote, before finally sitting them down one by one to ask more detailed questions that are intended to go beyond the scope of the questionnaire. Four were interviewed today, and I expect a lot more tomorrow; perhaps a dozen or so — maybe more. I hope.
The people interviewed today will not be picked for the jury, in my opinion. B-12, up first, was a female. She seemed to want to be on the panel. She also said she had heard that Zimmerman was following the victim. B-29 moved to Seminole County from Chicago four months ago. She’s a Certified Nursing Assistant. She sounded compassionate enough; too much, I’d say, because she said any child’s death would affect her as a mother. She also said it would be a burden to leave her children without their mother if sequestered. She did say it wouldn’t be impossible. She has a 19 year old, a 10 year old, and 3 year old twins. B-30 will be remembered for saying he’d rather be called thirty than be sixty-five. He was asked questions by a local TV reporter several months ago while dining with family in a Sanford restaurant. He would be perfect for the defense because he seems to fit the type of mold they are seeking as an older, more conservative male. He could be a gun owner, although nothing like that was made clear. It’s interesting to note that the prosecution went easy on him and it was actually the defense that elicited more information about his news and TV watching habits, which may have hurt his chance to be selected. Sadly, he also lost his wife about the same time Trayvon was shot and killed. Finally, we have B-76. She seemed to be very open-minded. She and her husband do not watch cable television. As a matter of fact, they have an old-fashioned antenna in their attic. She was aware of some of the court hearings. She had heard of the case prior to and leading up to Zimmerman’s arrest. She saw Mark O’Mara on the news. She saw Trayvon’s parents on the news. When asked, she said she recognized the boy’s mother sitting in the gallery, but not one of the family attorneys, Natalie Jackson. Ben Crump was not present at the time. She and her children had discussed the case, but she did say they are very open-minded and hadn’t formulated an opinion. Remember, the law says you don’t have to be stupid about the news; you just have to keep an open mind.
From now on, I will probably not pay this much attention (in my writing) to the details of each interviewee unless something important stands out. We’ve got, potentially, 500 people to go through, folks, and I’ve got a feeling it might take two weeks before we see the last person seated. After today, that’s the general consensus in the courtroom. What’s of utmost importance is that attorneys from both sides are allowed plenty of free space in their line of questioning. Not only is this about the death of a 17-year-old boy, it’s also about someone who could spend a minimum of 25 years in prison. It’s extremely important the jury that’s seated is as fair as they come, no matter what you or I personally think.
I think it’s also important to keep in mind that there’s a Frye hearing to conclude. We’re in it for the long haul. I know I am.