Sun 14 Jul, 2013 02:15 pm
June 20, 2013
6 Female Jurors Are Selected for Zimmerman Trial
By CARA BUCKLEY
SANFORD, Fla. — A jury of six women will decide whether George Zimmerman was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in an altercation at a townhouse community here in February last year. Mr. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the case, which set off national protests and cries of injustice because he was not initially arrested after claiming self-defense.
The jurors, none of them black, include a Hispanic woman with eight children, an animal rescuer who once had a concealed-weapons permit, and a woman who said she had used Mr. Martin’s death as a cautionary example for her two adolescent children. Of the four alternates chosen for the case, two were men, and all were white. Nearly all of the jurors have children.
That the final jury was made up solely of women was unusual, legal experts said. But what might resonate more in this racially charged case is that all but one of the jurors is white.
Diana Tennis, a defense lawyer based in Orlando, said the chances of having a six-person jury without any black jurors were high given the demographics of Seminole County, where 11 percent of the population is black. But should Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, be acquitted by a jury that includes no blacks could become a point of contention in the trial’s aftermath, she said.
“It’s not statistically significant,” Ms. Tennis said, “But whether or not it’s significant for the community depending on the outcome is another thing.”
Potential jurors were questioned methodically, as lawyers for the state and the defense sought to weed out those who had formed opinions in this widely publicized case. About 500 people were sent summonses. Pretrial questionnaires slimmed down that pool, and those who reached the last part of the process underwent one-on-one questioning by both sides before appearing Thursday for the final selection. Originally, the jury selection phase was projected to last three weeks, but it took only nine days.
The jurors, who are to remain anonymous for the duration of the trial, are referred to in court only by number. They will be sequestered from Monday onward, when opening statements are scheduled to begin. The trial is expected to last two to four weeks.
Experts had various opinions on whether an all-female pool of jurors would be more of a benefit to the prosecution or to the defense. “Women as a group might be less receptive to Zimmerman’s behavior than men,” Jules Epstein, an associate professor at Widener University School of Law, wrote in an e-mail. Also, Ms. Tennis said, women might be more sympathetic to the loss of a child.
Luis Calderon, a criminal lawyer in Orlando, said that because many of the women were older, they might identify with Mr. Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense more. “One of the things you have to show is reasonable fear,” he said, “Of being overpowered, of being helpless, of being in a situation where you can’t defend yourself physically.” Older women, he said, “would be more inclined to understand that.”
After court was adjourned, Mr. Zimmerman’s lead defense lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said, “What I do think we have, and I’m very happy with this, is six jurors who have told us that they’ll be fair and impartial.”
In a statement, the Martin family’s legal team said it also expected a fair and impartial jury.
“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,” the statement read. “Equal justice under the law is not a black value or a white value.”
Why were only females selected for the jury?
Why were none of the jurors black?
Why were educated women excluded from the jury pool?
If anyone is to be blamed for the decision in this case, shouldn't that be the Prosecutor, for his poor selection of the jury?
Would the decision have been different, had the jury been composed of 12 males?