As lawyers continued jury selection for the George Zimmerman trial, Trayvon Martin’s parents on Wednesday thanked potential jurors for their candor while calling for media pundits to stop demonizing the slain teen.
Benjamin Crump, the Martin family attorney, at a press conference blasted a former New York City detective who a day earlier had appeared on a cable news panel show, saying Trayvon would be alive if he hadn’t shown “street attitude.”
“The evidence shows there is no blood on Trayvon’s hands,” Crump told reporters after Wednesday’s court session. “Trayvon is not on trial here, he is the victim. Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, is the man who is on trial.
The sensitivity to press accounts comes as prosecutors and defense attorneys have spent the week grilling possible jurors about how the widespread publicity has shaped their views — and trying to determine if they can focus on only the evidence presented at trial.
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On Wednesday, 10 more possible jurors were interviewed. A total of 75 potential jurors have been dismissed since jury selection began Monday, including four on Wednesday .
Progress in the high-profile murder case has been steady; so far, 20 candidates have been selected to move on to another round of in-depth questioning.
Lawyers will select 10 more potential candidates before the resulting group of 30 is questioned further. From there, the lawyers hope to pick a panel of six jurors and four alternates.
Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, said Wednesday that the family was “encouraged” by the selection progress and urged potential jurors “to come forth and be honest.”
Zimmerman is claiming self-defense in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, during a struggle in a gated Sanford community last year. Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman, had called 911 to report Trayvon as a “suspicious” person before the physical confrontation ensued.
The killing sparked racially charged protests in U.S. cities after Zimmerman was not initially arrested. Trayvon was African American; Zimmerman is white Hispanic. The case also focused national scrutiny on Florida’s self-defense law.
Among the potential jurors questioned Wednesday: an older white woman who said she did not own a gun and found the concept of an unarmed person getting fatally shot a “tough concept,” a young black woman who gets most of her news from Facebook and a younger white woman who recalled Zimmerman’s “unique” website aimed at raising money for his legal defense. All three agreed that media reports had pushed the racial angle of the case.
The day’s highlights featured blunt honesty, some indecision and one juror with less candor.
One bearded young man in his 20s was dismissed after he said he didn’t care about the outcome of the case — and suggested he couldn’t be fair toward the defendant.
“Murder is murder, even in self-defense. Still doesn’t make it right,” the man told a prosecutor, saying Zimmerman’s story was one-sided. “Dead men tell no tales.”
Another juror, a father of two known only as potential juror B87 — members of the jury pool are not being identified by name — initially told lawyers he had reached an opinion on the case. But when pressed, the man would not elaborate.
“I don’t really think I was on one side or another just because I didn’t know the whole story,” he said. It was unclear if he was dismissed.
One of the final people interviewed Wednesday was apparently less than forthright.
The middle-aged, goateed musician and artist who described himself as “underemployed” insisted he had not made up his mind about Zimmerman’s guilt, saying he had shied away from debating the controversy with friends and colleagues.
But then, after lawyers met in a private huddle, Judge Debra S. Nelson presented the man with a printout of a March 21, 2012, post on a Facebook page for a group called the Coffee Party Progressives.
The man acknowledged that he had written the post. It was unclear whether he was dismissed but the post with the man’s photo included a caustic diatribe about the “corrupt” and “stonewalling” Sanford police. The post reads: “The Seminole County ‘Justice’ System needs an ENEMA.”