PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Chanting demonstrators carried photographs of a teenager who died at a juvenile boot camp as jury selection began Monday for the manslaughter trial of seven guards and a nurse charged in his death.
Martin Lee Anderson was 14 when he died in January 2006 at the now-closed Bay County Juvenile Boot Camp.
He had been sent there for a probation violation and became lethargic during a physical fitness test shortly after arriving. An exercise yard videotape shows seven guards repeatedly hitting the boy with their fists and knees. The camp nurse is accused of watching but doing nothing during most of the 30-minute encounter.
More than 1,400 Bay County residents were summoned for jury selection, being held in a makeshift courtroom in a civic center to accommodate the crowd. That is one of every 90 adults in the Florida Panhandle county.
The large number is needed because the case has gotten so much media attention locally. If an impartial panel can't be found, the trial will be moved to another Florida county.
More than 400 people were expected to be screened Monday, and Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet told attorneys he expected the process to continue past 8 p.m. "We will have to work to get through this panel," he said.
About 20 demonstrators stood outside the civic center and carried large posters showing Anderson and bearing slogans such as "Justice 4 Martin."
Their chants of "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now" could be heard in the second-floor courtroom.
The original autopsy on Anderson, conducted by the Bay County medical examiner, attributed his death to natural complications of sickle cell trait, a genetic blood disorder.
After an outcry from Anderson's family and the public, his body was exhumed and a second autopsy by another doctor found he had suffocated.
The defense will lean heavily on the first autopsy, saying it shows the guards' and nurse's actions were not to blame.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober to prosecute the case, citing a potential conflict of interest for local prosecutors. His team will say that the second autopsy combined with the video shows that Anderson was killed.
The Florida Legislature dismantled the state's military-style youth boot camps after Anderson's death. The case also led to the resignation of the chief of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.