Sanford, Fla. – Prosecutors and attorneys for George Zimmerman have interviewed two dozen potential jurors but are still a half-dozen short of being able to go into the next round of questioning, despite three days of trying.
Attorneys entered the fourth day of questioning jury candidates Thursday about what media stories they had been exposed to about the neighborhood watch volunteer's fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during an altercation in a Sanford gated community last year.
They need 30 potential jurors to get past the initial round of interviews so they can ask them more in-depth questions about their views and life experiences. Four potential jurors were dismissed Wednesday, raising the total of jury candidates who have been disqualified to 75.
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.
Attorneys had interviewed 24 potential jurors by the end of the third day of selection, including 10 Wednesday. A total of 20 have been held over for the next round of questioning.
Among those interviewed was a white man in his 20s who left the courtroom without being asked questions by defense attorneys after he gave answers to prosecutors indicating he wouldn't be impartial. The juror, known as "R-39" because potential panelists can be identified only by their numbers, said that "murder is murder," even if it's self-defense. Zimmerman, 29, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he shot Martin in self-defense.
A 44-day delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests around the U.S. more than a year ago. Critics questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was seriously investigating the case of Martin, a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Potential jurors who were questioned Wednesday also included a white man in his 50s whose prior Facebook posting earned a question from Judge Debra Nelson. The nature of the posting wasn't disclosed but the judge asked the self-described painter and musician if he had made it. He said yes and left the courtroom a few minutes later. Earlier in the questioning, he said he thought Zimmerman should have been arrested but he hadn't formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence.
Nelson has said she will keep the identities of the selected jurors anonymous but she rejected a defense request to sequester the initial jury pool of 500 residents.
After Wednesday's courtroom session had ended, Martin's father, Tracy Martin, said his family felt good so far about the jury selection process.
Tracy Martin said, "We are encouraged as a family that we can get justice for our son Trayvon, and we expect the public to come forth and be honest as potential jurors."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.