A jury of six women will deliberate in George Zimmerman’s second degree murder trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The panel was finalized on Thursday, after both prosecution and defense attorneys whittled down the pool of 40 potential jurors to six, along with four alternates: two women and two men.
It was unclear immediately after the hearing whether one of the jurors is black or Hispanic. However, in a press conference after court recessed, George Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, was asked by a reporter what he would say to people who “don’t understand the process and are upset there are no black jurors on the panel.”
Martin was African-American. Zimmerman is of white and Hispanic heritage.
Black jurors dismissed
“I would tell them to look at the questioning,” O’Mara said. “If they are going to have an opinion rather than it just be a knee jerk reaction, to tell me that you’ve watched the process, tell me that … you just watched us talk to every juror, that you listened to [prosecutor] Mr. De La Rionda when he did his questioning yesterday and you’ve listened to me do my questioning today. You go down the list which was random and see how it happened.”
O’Mara added that “the state struck the first black juror and then we got our six.” He continued: “I had questions about two black jurors on their ability to be fair and impartial and we talked about that. That’s been I think now put on the record when it comes to my thoughts and the judge agreed that they were race neutral reasons. So while people can look at it and have this reaction: there’s no blacks on the jury, there’s no this, or there’s no that, tell me we did something wrong in the process and I’ll agree with you. If you look at this process and I’ll agree with you if you look at the process and say it was done fairly than the result was fair.”
Earlier in the press conference, O’Mara was asked whether he was at all concerned about how his challenges of two black women members of the jury pool, which resulted in their dismissal, would be perceived by the public. “No I don’t think so which is why I’m glad that the state asked for explanations on the record,” O’Mara said. “I think had they just been struck by me and no explanation given it might have been more concerning to those who just had opinions, well were they stricken just because of their race. So I was really glad to have the opportunity to present on record some of the information that we had on those jurors as to why I had concerns about their ability to be fair and impartial jurors.”
The jury does include one member described by the prosecutor as “black or Hispanic” and by an attorney for the Martin family as Hispanic. Juror B29, a certified nursing assistant who told the court she works with dementia patients. Originally from Chicago, she told the court she moved to Seminole County four months ago and has six teenage children as well as 3-year-old twins. During questioning, she said that what she remembered hearing about the case was “T shirts and some little boy passed away.”
Asked how important it was to him to have a Latina on the jury, given that Zimmerman is half Hispanic, O’Mara demurred, saying, “obviously we can tell they’re women but obviously we’re not discussing the demographics of their heritage so my real focus is six people, fair and impartial, listening to the law and that is all I ever wanted in a jury and I believe that is what we got here.”
Attorneys for Trayvon Martin’s parents issued a statement after the jury was chosen, saying: “This case has always been about equal justice. Equal justice under the law is not a black value or a white value. It’s an American value. With the makeup of this jury, the question of whether every American can get equal justice regardless of who serves on their jury panel will be answered. We expect the jury pool to do their duty and be fair and impartial. We firmly believe that when these jurors see the overwhelming evidence that will be put before them in the coming weeks, they will find George Zimmerman guilty of murder on the night in question.”
And Natalie Jackson, one of the attorneys representing Martin’s family, tweeted: “l like this 9 white & 1 hispanic jury…takes silly argument of “Black vs. White” made by shallow people off table. Focus back on fairness.” She then tweeted: “With this jury, the focus will be on all the things a trial should be focus on…evidence, fairness & the impartiality of jury & NOT B v.W.”
A jury filled with mothers
The six women who will make up the jury included Juror B51, a retired call center director who told the court she moved to Central Florida from Atlanta in 1987.
Juror B37, a married mother of 24 and 27-year-olds, works in a chiropractor’s office and does animal rescue work. She said during questioning that she remembers “the issues in Sanford when they were having riots,” apparently referring to the demonstrations in March of last year calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
Juror B76, married 30 years with a 26-year-old daughter and a 28-year-old son who is an attorney, said during questioning that she remembered about the February 2012 shooting: “there was a gun involved. He [Zimmerman] was a security guard I believe for that community. There was a struggle and the young man died and Zimmerman was injured through the struggle.”
Another juror, E6, an unemployed, married mother of two, told the court she uses the Martin shooting death as a warning to her 11 and 13-year-old children to not go out at night.
And juror E40, who has lived in Seminole County just seven months after moving from Iowa, described her occupation as “safety officer,” a career she has pursued for 25 years. She told the court she has a 26-year-old son who is “currently looking for work,” having previously worked in food service in Western Pennsylvania.
Opening arguments in the trial are expected to begin Monday.
Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @TheReidReport.