REPORTING FROM SANFORD, FLORIDA
When Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin, entered the courtroom for the trial of George Zimmerman on charges of second-degree murder in the death of their son, they were accompanied by their legal counsel.
But the parents were also escorted by a large number of ministers. Some of them were from Sanford. Others were from Miami, where Fulton lives.
Since they entered the national spotlight after the death of their son more than a year ago, both parents have been made their faith a central issue in their discussions of how they have coped with the tragedy. Moreover, so many of their public appearances, from rallies to speeches, have been in churches and they speak regularly and pointedly about how their faith has allowed them to weather the experience of the last 16 months.
But the presence of so many ministers by the side of the family has firmly underscored the importance of the role of faith and clergy to Martin and Fulton. In the opening day of the trial, the parents of the dead teenager were accompanied by at least six ministers.
“I’m here to support Sybrina and the family during this marathon of a trial,” said the Rev. Arthur Jackson III, the senior pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church in Miami, where Sybrina Fulton is an active member.
“We want to help offer light and strength in the hopes that they will keep the faith during this entire process,” said Jackson, speaking with BET.com in the opening days of the trial. “And of course, our hope is that justice would reign supreme. We believe strongly that Zimmerman was out of order and we’re just hoping for a fair jury pool. We believe that if they’re fair, a fair verdict will be given.”
So far, Trayvon's parents have been sitting through the second day of the lengthy process of interviewing prospective jurors in the case. More than 500 residents of Seminole County have been notified to report for jury duty, and there are more than 100 people who are set to be interviewed by attorneys in court. Eventually, six jurors will be selected.
With each potential juror spending between 20 and 30 minutes being questioned by the lawyers for George Zimmerman and the prosecution, the courtroom activity is lengthy and not particularly animated.
Yet the parents and their ministerial support group are in the courtroom, sitting through the long process of questioning potential jurors.
“They are holding up extremely well,” said the Rev. Walter T. Richardson, the senior pastor at Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in Perrine, Florida, and the senior chaplain for the Miami Dade Police Department, speaking with BET.com.
“What’s holding them together is their unwavering belief not only in God, but also in the justice system. But more than anything, it’s their faith that is sustaining them. Every week, a different pastor from around the country has been calling them and praying with the family. I think they find it very helpful.”
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(Photo: Jonathan P. Hicks/BET)