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(SANFORD, Fla.) — The judge in the George Zimmerman murder trial denied a last minute attempt by his defense attorneys on Monday to delay the start of one of the most controversial cases in recent years.

It took Judge Debra Nelson seconds to deny Mark O’Mara’s motion to continue the trial on the grounds that his team was not ready.

Gathered behind O’Mara in the Florida court was a team of nearly 10 lawyers and assistants.  Also sitting behind the defense was Shellie Zimmerman, the wife of the man accused of shooting the unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, last year.

The Martin family entered the courtroom stonefaced after delivering a statement outside the courthouse asking for calm.

“We are relieved that the start of the trial is here with jury selection as we seek justice for our son Trayvon…we ask the community continue to stay peaceful as we place our faith in the justice system,” the parents said.

But Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, let her composure slip and teared up as she left the courtroom during an early break.

The judge began questioning the first few dozen jurors, who had filled out questionnaires specifically compiled for this trial.  By the end of jury selection, some 500 potential jurors may be grilled about their positions on race, guns, and the media as prosecutors and Zimmerman’s defense attorneys work to whittle the mass of jurors down to the six and four alternates who could decide Zimmerman’s fate.

But it’s the demographic look of the six jurors and four alternates that ultimately may be more important than their views, legal experts say.

If the Zimmerman legal team can pack the Seminole County, Fla., jury with white, conservative, pro-conviction jurors, they could beat the 2nd degree murder charge, says Jose Baez, who successfully defended Casey Anthony in 2011.

“Each side will try to stack the deck in their favor,” said Baez.  “It’s going to be an issue of what type of jurors will sit in the judgment of George Zimmerman.  What political backgrounds do they come from?  What are their views on racism?  What are their views on gun control?  All of these important modern issues that we’re facing … and that’s what jury selection will be about in this case.”

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