The father of Trayvon Martin asked for prayers and appealed for peace Monday as potential jurors filed into a Florida courthouse for the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the teenager’s shooting death.
“We ask that the community continue to stay peaceful as we place our faith in the justice system,” said the father, Tracy Martin, speaking to reporters in an empty courtroom.
He said the family was relieved that the trial was beginning, and later added: “We ask that you continue to pray for Trayvon and our family.”
As the potential jurors showed up, Judge Debra Nelson denied a defense motion to delay the trial. Defense lawyer Mark O’Mara had told her: “We’re not fully ready.”
Five hundred people received jury summonses, although not all were expected to report to the courthouse for the first day. The exact procedure for questioning jurors has not been made public.
Zimmerman, now 29, admits that he shot Martin, 17, on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, but claims that Martin attacked him and that he acted in self-defense. Martin was walking back to his father’s girlfriend’s home from a convenience store.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty.
As jury selection begins, some evidentiary matters remain unsettled. Among them is whether jurors will hear from expert analysts about an anguished 911 call from the night of the shooting.
A police detective wrote in an early report that he could hear a man yelling “Help” or “Help Me” 14 times. Prosecutors say the voice is Martin’s, but defense lawyers say it could be Zimmerman, who they say was being struck by Martin.
Judge Debra Nelson has not announced a decision on whether the jury will be sequestered or on how many alternates will back up the jury of six. The trial is expected to last more than a month.
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBCUniversal for defamation. The company has strongly denied his allegations.
This article first appeared on NBCNews.com here.