With Trayvon Martins outraged family demanding justice and the case picking up national and worldwide steam, the focus on Floridas law increased. Rallies were held in Sanford, New York and other cities with activists calling the case a civil rights issue.
Critics said the Stand Your Ground law promotes Wild West vigilantism. Gun-rights advocates countered that Zimmerman had the right to defend himself, with Zimmermans lawyers pushing an image of Trayvon as less-than-innocent aggressor.
Benjamin Crump, the Martin family lawyer who has been the driving force in raising awareness of the case, says he just wants jurors to keep open minds.
We want equal justice for Trayvon Martin just like George Zimmermans family wants equal justice, he said. We want the jury to base their verdict on the evidence, not on emotion, not on innuendo, just on the objective evidence.
Still, Crump acknowledges the cases scope outside the courtroom.
When Sanford made a decision that they were not going to arrest the killer, it became a civil rights issue right at that moment, he said.
Jury selection may take more than two weeks unusual for a murder case in which the death penalty is not involved.
Opinions are being shaped not just on the facts, but on the law itself, said Miami defense lawyer Eduardo X. Pereira, who has earned two recent dismissals of self-defense murder cases. In a normal murder case, nobody is in favor of murder. But in a Stand Your Ground case, youre going to have people who either agree with the law or not.
The key for any attorney will be identifying them and explaining the importance of the fundamental right to self defense to those who dont yet understand or agree with Stand Your Ground.
The racial makeup of the jury is also likely to be a major consideration for both sides. The conventional wisdom in criminal court is that black jurors usually favor the defense.
Not so in the Zimmerman case. Legal observers say they believe black jurors will more be likely to side with prosecutors, who are arguing that Zimmerman profiled the teen as someone who was up to no good.
Defense attorney Baez thinks the state will have success landing black jurors.
Even having attended a Trayvon rally in Sanford or having read about the case wont be enough to boot a juror, Baez believes. Instead, he said, the judge will likely attempt to rehabilitate jurors who may have been exposed to details of the case, making sure they can be impartial and consider the facts.
I think the judge will be on ultra-alert to prevent the defense from excluding anyone based on race, Baez said.
And once a jury is seated, the state will introduce its key evidence.
In their favor: Trayvons girlfriend who told investigators she was on the phone with the teen as Zimmerman followed him.
He said this guy was getting real close to him. Next thing I hear, why are you following me for? she told prosecutors. And I hear this man: What are you doing around here?
The girl told police Trayvon said Get off, get off.
Other audio from 911 calls neighbors made as Zimmerman and Trayvon struggled outside their homes will also be presented as important evidence. Prosecutors hope that audio experts will identify Trayvons voice on the calls crying out in apparent fear; the judge will rule later if jurors can hear the experts testimony.