SANFORD, Fla. — A potential juror for the George Zimmerman murder case was dismissed from consideration and ordered not to come back to the courthouse until after the trial after he complained about the jury process outside the assembly room Friday.
Despite that, more than two dozen potential jurors interviewed individually by prosecutors and defense attorneys during the past week were told to return to a Florida courthouse next week for further questioning.
The dismissed juror – who described himself as a musician and painter – said he was concerned about losing his privacy. He pointed to the jury assembly room and said "Do they know what they're in for?" according to a report from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
He was given a trespass warning and told not to return until after the trial, which was expected to last two to four weeks after a jury is chosen. During questioning on Thursday, the judge asked him if he had posted on Facebook about the case and he replied yes. He was told he could leave the courtroom a short time later.
The sides must agree on six jurors and four alternates. Zimmerman, a 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.
Before lunch, Judge Debra Nelson told 23 candidates to return Tuesday and she did the same to an additional six potential jurors before ending the day Friday. She asked them not to discuss the case or selection process with anyone.
Court spokesman Michelle Kennedy, however, said a tally she had received from the judge put the number of potential jurors called back at 28.
Of the 29 candidates, 19 are white; six are black; two are Hispanic; one describes himself as mixed race; and one is Asian-American. The racial and ethnic makeup of potential jurors is relevant because prosecutors claim Zimmerman profiled 17-year-old Martin when he followed him through his gated community shortly before the unarmed teen was fatally shot. The case prompted public outrage, as some critics believed authorities initially didn't investigate the case thoroughly because Martin was a black teen from the Miami area.
The potential jurors asked to return were overwhelmingly female and middle-aged.
After Friday's court session ended, defense attorney Mark O'Mara said he was confident he could pick a jury in Seminole County.
"Personally, I'm very happy about that," O'Mara said. "We're making good progress that jurors, for the most part are being honest and straight-forward."
Defense investigators were able to uncover the Facebook posting by the dismissed juror. O'Mara said he was worried about possible "stealth jurors," who want to sit on the jury with ulterior motives.
"It could have easily gotten by us," O'Mara said.
Race-related questions came up regularly during jury candidate interviews on Friday.
During questioning of a potential juror Friday, O'Mara specifically asked a man in his 20s who identified as mixed race what his racial background was. The man said German, Filipino, Chinese and Spanish.
Later in the day, a middle-aged black man who works in a school described his family and friends' reaction to Martin's death as "typical," given a history of violence against African-American men in the U.S.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys want to build a pool of 40 potential jurors who have been screened for any influence of pretrial publicity before they move to a second round of questioning. Attorneys had interviewed 41 potential jurors over five days by midafternoon on Friday.
At least 75 potential jurors already have been dismissed.
A 44-day delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests around the nation. Some 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.
The judge said Thursday that jurors picked to serve will be sequestered during the two weeks to a month that the trial will last. 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.
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The Martin Story Becomes National News
New York's Daily Intelligencer blog details how the Trayvon Martin story, which hadn't received a lot of attention, <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/03/trayvon-martin-shooting-now-a-national-news-story.html">landed on the radars of the national media.</a> A good deal of the national attention and outrage over the case was centered around the fact that Zimmerman claimed that he shot Martin in self-defense, a category with broad meaning because of Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, and was not arrested or charged with a crime for more than a month after Martin's death.
Seminole County State Attorney Convenes Grand Jury
Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger announces that he will be convening a grand jury to determine if Zimmerman should be charged in Martin's death. In a statement, Wolfinger said that he would be "utilizing the investigative resources" of the Seminole County grand jury which he said would be called to session on April 10. "I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin," Wolfinger said. "I respectfully request that the public remain patient as this process continues forward ... As I have previously stated, the public is entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate, and just review of the facts. We intend to honor that commitment." Lawyers for the Martin family anticipated that the state attorney would call a grand jury, saying that the move is little more than "passing the buck."
Police Chief Under Fire
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/trayvon-martin-case-george-zimmerman-bill-lee_n_1371635.html?1332389437">Sanford's city commission gave a vote of “no confidence” to beleaguered police Chief Bill Lee Jr.</a>, who was under fire for his department’s investigation into the shooting.
Police Chief 'Temporarily' Steps Down
In a brief press conference, Chief Bill Lee announced that he would be "temporarily" steppng down from his position, saying that his role in the case had become a "distraction."
State Attorney Steps Down
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/22/trayvon-martin-state-attorney_n_1374206.html">Seminole County State Attorney Norman Wolfinger steps down</a> due to "conflict of interest."
President Obama Speaks Out
President Obama <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/obama-trayvon-martin_n_1375083.html?ref=trayvon-martin">issues his first public statement</a> about the case.
Police Video Shows Zimmerman Night Of Shooting
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/28/trayvon-martin-police-video_n_1386764.html">Newly released video of George Zimmerman</a> at the Sanford Police Department the night he shot Trayvon Martin to death show the neighborhood watch volunteer without blood on his clothing or bruises on his face or head.
George Zimmerman Launches FundraIsing Website
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/travon-martin-george-zimmerman_n_1412693.html?utm_hp_ref=trayvon-martin">Zimmerman launches an official fundraising site</a> to help pay his legal fees.
George Zimmerman Charged With Second-Degree Murder
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/george-zimmerman-trayvon-martin-charged-second-degree-murder_n_1417198.html">Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced</a> that George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.
Judge Grants Zimmerman Bail
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/george-zimmerman-bail-hearing_n_1440175.html?ref=black-voices">Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman's bond at $150,000</a>
New Photograph Shows George Zimmerman's Bloodied Head
A new photograph released by ABC News shows a bloodied George Zimmerman with injuries on the back of his head. The photo, which was reportedly taken three minutes after Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, could serve as possible evidence supporting the neighborhood watch volunteer's claim of his violent confrontation with the teen.
Zimmerman Bond Revoked
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/george-zimmermans-bond-re_n_1563304.html">A Florida judge revoked bond for George Zimmerman</a>, and ordered that he turn himself in within 48 hours. Prosecutors had asked Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to revoke Zimmerman's bond because they contend that he was disingenuous at an earlier bond hearing when Zimmerman's family and attorney claimed that he was cash broke. The motion filed by prosecutors claimed that Zimmerman "misrepresented, mislead [sic] and deceived the court."
Shellie Zimmerman Arrested
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/shellie-zimmerman-arrested-george-zimmerman-wife_n_1591153.html?utm_hp_ref=trayvon-martin">George Zimmerman's wife Shellie, was arrested</a> and charged with one count of perjury, according to law enforcement officials.
George Zimmerman Released From Jail
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/george-zimmerman-released_n_1654831.html">George Zimmerman left a Florida jail</a> after posting a $1 million bond that a judge set for him Thursday, Bay News 9 reports. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, who revoked Zimmerman's bond in June for misleading the court about how much money he had, said he set the bail significantly higher to circumvent the possibility of Zimmerman using hidden funds to flee the country.
Judge Ordered To Step Down
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/29/george-zimmerman-judge-lester_n_1841293.html">Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeal rules that Judge Kenneth Lester should enter a motion to disqualify himself</a> in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder case. Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara asked the court earlier this month to overturn a previous ruling by Lester not to leave the case.
Trial Date Set
George Zimmerman's murder trial for the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/17/george-zimmerman-trial-date-set-june-10-2013_n_1973469.html">set for June 10, 2013</a>
Zimmerman Must Remain In County On 24-Hour GPS Monitor Until Trial
George Zimmerman ordered remain under 24-hour GPS monitoring while awaiting trial in the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and must stay in the county despite the defense's concerns about his safety.
George Zimmerman Denied Delay Of Trayvon Martin Trial
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/05/george-zimmerman-denied-trayvon-martin-trial_n_2623282.html?utm_hp_ref=trayvon-martin">A Florida judge rejected a bid by George Zimmerman to delay his June trial</a> for the murder of unarmed, black teenager Trayvon Martin, whom he shot and killed a year ago. Zimmerman is expected to appear in court for an April hearing where his lawyers plan to argue that he should be immune from prosecution in the case because of Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. The National Rifle Association (NRA) heavily lobbied Florida legislators to pass the law in 2005 and encouraged lawmakers not to change it after Martin's death.