(SANFORD, Fla.) — Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch captain accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
The sensational case has garnered international headlines, focusing not only on whether Zimmerman used unnecessary deadly force to subdue Martin, who he claims attacked him, but also if it was an instance of racial profiling since Martin was African-American and Zimmerman is a white Hispanic.
Prosecutors and the defense are expected to interview 100-300 prospective jurors from a pool of 500, with jury selection expected to last one-to-three weeks. All the names of potential jurors will remain anonymous, the judge in the case has decreed.
Randy Reep, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor in Jacksonville, Fla., contends, “Both sides are going to have to be careful in juror selection because the race issues in this case are highly charged. If I was the prosecutor in this case, I would desire to have black people or other minorities who have had bad experiences based solely on their ‘profileable’ characteristics.”
Usually, it’s the defense that looks for people who believe they were wrongly targeted because of their race.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder. He maintains that it was Martin who set upon him after their encounter in a gated community, alleging that the teen was reaching for Zimmerman’s gun to shoot him.
Zimmerman, who is free on $1 million bail, asserts that he had no other recourse but to use deadly force.
The prosecution maintains that Zimmerman was the aggressor from the start.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family. “Trayvon was yelling and screaming for help, and he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.”
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda says the prosecution will try to demonstrate a “depraved mind without regard for human life” — Florida’s definition of second-degree murder.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson has ruled that Martin’s marijuana use and past fights can’t be brought up.
The case might also have an indirect effect on Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows the use of deadly force when one feels his or her life is being threatened.
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