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Trayvon Martin case: What does each side want in a jury? (+video)

Jury selection in the Trayvon Martin case, in its third day, is now expected to last two weeks. Prosecutors, as well as lawyers for defendant George Zimmerman, are probing into prospective jurors' news habits, as well as their views about local crime.

By Staff writer / June 12, 2013

Jury consultant Robert Hirschhorn (l.) and defendant George Zimmerman listen to Judge Debra Nelson in Seminole circuit court during jury selection for Zimmerman's trial, in Sanford, Fla., June 11.

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP

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Finding six jurors and four alternates to rule whether George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin or killed the unarmed Florida teenager in self-defense is likely going to take a while – for good reason.

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Sixteen months after the death of Trayvon, a 17-year-old returning to his dad’s house in Sanford, Fla., after buying a bag of Skittles, the trial of Mr. Zimmerman is forcing questions with which many Americans privately wrestle, including stereotyping of tough-looking young black men and attitudes about neighborhood security.

The same issues that divided America about the case – whether Zimmerman, who identifies as Hispanic, was a racially motivated vigilante or a responsible gun owner who got caught in an untenable situation while trying to safeguard a neighborhood against a crime wave – are now dogging the jury selection as the trial got under way Monday. As of Wednesday morning, 70 individuals in the 500-strong jury pool have been dismissed, and no juror has yet been seated. Expectations now are that jury selection could take two weeks. 

Given the large amount of pretrial publicity, the challenge is to find a fair jury among a pool of residents likely to have already formed distinct, if subconscious, opinions about what happened in those murky moments when Zimmerman and Trayvon fought, and where someone emitted a shriek before a single bullet felled Trayvon.

The defense, jury experts say, is probably jockeying for a paradoxical kind of juror: an older, white person with a strong bent toward “law and order” – the same kind of person that, in another case, might look skeptically upon a man who fires a gun at an unarmed teenager. Florida's Seminole County is 66 percent white and 12 percent black.

Given broad concern in the black community about Trayvon’s death and the local police department’s initial failure to charge Zimmerman, prosecutors are likely to push for at least one or two African-American jurors, though jurors cannot be excused or retained solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

As the selection process continues, attorneys on both sides are trying to analyze potential jurors’ attitudes toward government, guns, and self-defense, while probing about how and where jury candidates get their news.

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