George Zimmerman to face all-woman jury

Updated
George Zimmerman, right, confers with his defense team during jury selection for his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 20, 2013.
George Zimmerman, right, confers with his defense team during jury selection for his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, June 20, 2013.
Gary Green/Orlando Sentinel/Pool/AP

A jury of six women was chosen on Thursday to determine the fate of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Four alternates— two men and two women—were also chosen.

Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

A pool of hundreds had been whittled down over the course of jury selection, which lasted nine days. The panel will be sequestered during the trial, which will begin with opening statements Monday at 9 a.m. The trial is expected to last between two and four weeks.

Five of the women selected for the jury are white and the sixth is black or Hispanic, said prosecutors. Race has been a factor in the case from the outset, although the Martin family has played down that aspect of the incident. Martin was African-American. Zimmerman is of white and Hispanic descent. Supporters of Martin say that Zimmerman profiled the teen the night of the shooting because he was young, black and wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Zimmerman has said that he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense after the unarmed teen attacked him during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.

Gender hasn’t played much of a role in the case, aside from various legal analysts and pundits suggesting that perhaps female jurors might be more sympathetic to the prosecution in a case involving the killing of an unarmed minor.

“All the stereotypes are out of the window,” Jules Epstein, a professor of law at Widener University who has been following the case, told msnbc. “These are people that were picked regardless of their gender. In this case there were multiple rounds of questioning people, so we got lot of data about them. This is not a case where they just looked around a room and said damn, I don’t know what these people are thinking.”

The trial began with jury selection on June 10. Prospective jurors were asked what they already knew about the case and how their views were shaped by media reports of Martin’s killing and the protests that followed. By Wednesday, the pool had been winnowed to 40 potential jurors. Prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned the group about their thoughts on guns and crime, self-defense and reasonable doubt, among other topics.

Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman after the shooting, citing his rights under the state’s expansive self-defense laws. The case drew wide attention and sparked debate over race relations and gun-control.

Legal analyst Kendall Coffey told NBC News that the fact of an all-woman jury should not be a “major factor” in the outcome of the trial. “But to the extent it tilts either way, the prosecution should not be unhappy about an all-women jury,” he said.

Coffey said that in general, women’s attitudes about guns and “people engaging in confrontations instead of relying on authorities” might favor the prosecution’s argument that Zimmerman was in the wrong.

“And in a perfect world, the prosecution would want to see a jury of mothers,” Coffey said.

Daryl Parks, an attorney for Martin’s family, said the family’s legal team is satisfied with the jury selection process and that in the end it will be the evidence presented in court that will determine the outcome of the case.

“We don’t think the gender make up will have any impact at all,” Parks told msnbc. “The jurors are who they are and we believe through the process they are going to hear all of the evidence and still be able to come to a decision and convict George Zimmerman for murder.”

Parks said that Martin’s family believes in the judicial process, but said that process hasn’t come without some hurt feelings.

“It’s been tough for them,” Parks said of Martin’s parents, one or both of whom have been in court during most of the jury selection phase.

“They have sat through jury selection and they have heard many perceptions of their child, about so many different things and as we know so many of those things were not on point,” Parks said.

George Zimmerman’s family, including his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, and his parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman, have also been in court and have been steadfast in their support since the shooting.

The names of the jurors will not be published during the trial; they’ve been identified by number. The six jurors seated today are B29, B76, B37, B51, E6 and E40.

Below are profiles of the six selected jurors based on their statements to the Court:

Juror B-29 is a wife and mother of eight children who is originally from Chicago. She’s never served on a jury and when asked by prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda if she belonged to any organization, she said “my house is my organization.”

Juror B-76 is a wife and mother of two adult children who is currently unemployed after spending 15 years running a construction company with her husband. Her 28-year-old son is an attorney whose area of specialty is in foreclosures, divorces, and contract law. Her daughter is a C.N.A. Her passion is rescuing animals.

Juror B-37 is the daughter of an Air Force Captain who has worked at the same company for 16 years. Her husband is an attorney who has worked with the shuttle companies and is now working with rocket companies. She’s the mother of two, one of whom is a 24-year-old pet groomer and the other is a 27-year-old student at the University of Central Florida. She’s an animal lover who was called to serve on a jury four times, but told the court she was never seated on a jury because of  “where I work.”

Juror B-51 is a transplant from Atlanta and retired real estate agent. She told the court that she was seated on a jury as an alternate in the early 1990’s and another time in Seminole County just three years ago. She is not married and does not have any children. The woman was also the director of a call center with 1,200 employees working for her. Asked by the prosecutor how she handled disputes in the workplace she said, “You have to listen to all sides, and sometimes you just have to make the tough calls.”

Juror E-6 is an unemployed former financial service worker and native Floridian who moved to the area two years ago. She has been married for six years and has two children, ages 11 and 13. The woman said that she was a proud church member. Her husband is an engineer. She acknowledged that she was arrested in 1999 and told the court that she was treated fairly, noting, “I deserved it.”

Juror E-40 moved to the area from Iowa seven months ago and is the wife of a chemical engineer. She’s the mother of a son who lives in Western Pennsylvania. When asked what she likes to do in her spare time, the woman told the court that she likes to watch football, read, and travel. The woman spent 28 years as a safety officer and served on a jury 20 years ago. It was a drug case in Pennsylvania.

Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBCUniversal for defamation. The company has strongly denied his allegations.

 

George Zimmerman to face all-woman jury

Updated