Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asks questions to gage potential candidates' abilities to be impartial.
The eighth day of the George Zimmerman trial marked the start of the second round of what has become a very in-depth and extensive jury selection. Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda interviewed 40 jury candidates Wednesday, and still no jurors have been seated. All 40 potential candidates were asked to return to the courthouse tomorrow to resume questioning.
Jurors were asked one by one about how long they have lived in Seminole County, about their marital and family status, and how long they had been in their careers among other questions.
In an attempt to address any pre-existing biases, jurors were given a list of possible witnesses that may be summoned to testify and asked if they were acquainted with any of the people listed. During the initial early morning questioning, a juror referred to as P-67 raised concerns about privacy during the jury selection.
P-67, an immigrant and a recently naturalized U.S. citizen asked, “Can you tell me again why we cannot do this in private?”
Judge Debra Nelson told the potential juror that the rounds of questioning were required to be open to the public. “I cannot and will not clear the courtroom,” to continue his questioning, she said. When the majority of the jurors were dismissed, P-67 stayed behind to have a private discussion with Judge Nelson and the other attorneys present.
Now that the pool for potential candidates has dwindled, the focus turns to the trial’s confidentiality. Earlier in the day as Judge Nelson brought the court to recess for lunch, she told the jurors that despite being allowed to eat lunch together, they were able to speak about “anything in the whole wide world” but the case.
After recess, prosecutor de la Rionda sought to determine if any of the candidates were unable to be impartial. He asked the potential jurors if they had prior experiences as an eyewitness or had participated in neighborhood watches. All claimed they would be able to be impartial jurors.
In a day full of intense questioning that was marked with unexpected moments of laughter and levity, one moment stood out. Juror B-7 told de la Rionda that he had previously served on a jury and had a positive experience during the trial.
De la Rionda asked the jurors, “Did everyone hear that?” Juror B-7 quipped back, “It was one day, and we weren’t sequestered.”
Zimmerman, who was joined today by his parents in court, is pleading not guilty to the formal charge of second-degree murder. Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)