SANFORD, Fla. – The six jurors and four alternates who eventually will decide whether George Zimmerman committed murder when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin will have limited contact with the outside world during the two weeks to a month it will take to hold the trial.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said for the first time Thursday that jurors picked for Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial will be sequestered. They will have limited contact with their families, they will spend the night at a hotel and their actions will be monitored by court security outside the courtroom during the duration of the trial. Prosecutors and defense attorneys resume their fifth day of jury selection Friday.
"You would not be able to participate in day-to-day routine activities," defense attorney Don West told one potential juror.
Some potential jurors have been wary of the prospect of being cut off from the world during the trial.
Jury candidate K-80, a middle-aged white woman, described sequestration Thursday as "my biggest fear." Jurors are only referred to by their jury numbers in court to protect their identities.
Juror E-81, a middle-aged white woman, said when she saw the word "sequester" on the questionnaire in the jury room, "the walls caved in."
"I want to sleep in my own bed," she said. The potential juror also worried about her safety if picked, saying "I'm going to walk out of here with a bulls-eye on me."
The jury candidate appeared to already have made up her mind about the case, decreasing her chances of being picked. Her impression was that Martin's prior use of marijuana and an image of a gun found on his cell phone were indications that "he was going down the wrong path." She also said she believed Zimmerman was just "looking after his neighborhood."
"I believe every American has a right to defend himself," said Juror E-81. "I think the more people armed, the better."
Potential juror B-67, a Hispanic female in her 40s, was allowed to leave courtroom without being questioned by defense attorneys after she said being sequestered would be a hardship with her family and school commitments.
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he shot an unarmed Martin in self-defense. A 44-day delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests around the nation. They questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was investigating the case seriously since Martin was a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Attorneys need to find six jurors and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases, when the death penalty is being considered.
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