The trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin has stalled as attorneys struggle to put together a jury with no preconceptions about the case. Since neighborhood watch enthusiast Zimmerman shot dead 17-year-old Martin in February 2012, media projections and public outrage have in turns framed Zimmerman as a racist killer, or Martin as a violent drug user prone to altercations. Both character assassinations enframe the way individuals who have heard about the story see the events of Feb. 26, 2012 having played out. Via the Guardian:
By the end of Tuesday, the attorneys had questioned 14 potential jurors in person, and more than 40 jury candidates had been dismissed after filling out a questionnaire.
Only four candidates from a pool of hundreds were questioned in court on Monday.
Court officials in Sanford have summoned 500 residents of Seminole County to appear before the judge, prosecution and defence and will choose a panel of six, with four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving cases when the death penalty is being considered. Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder, for the shooting of the unarmed black teenager in February 2012. He has pleaded not guilty.
The biggest challenge facing both sides is finding jury members who have no preconceived ideas or opinions about the night Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, shot and killed Martin during a confrontation at Sanford's Retreat, at Twin Lakes gated community. Zimmerman, 29, denies murder on the grounds of self-defence. Prosecutors will seek to portray him as an unstable vigilante who pursued and attacked the 17-year-old as he walked through the development.