Day 1 of jury selection ends in George Zimmerman murder trial

Judge denies defense's 3rd motion for trial delay

SANFORD, Fla. - The first group of potential jurors were interviewed by both the defense and the state on Monday afternoon in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial.

The first juror, being called "B 12" to keep her identity a secret, is a white female in her mid-40s. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda and Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara questioned her, along with three other jurors named "B76," "B30" and "B29." The four questioned included three women and one man.

The remaining prospective jurors were given instructions over what to do overnight and court was recessed for the day.

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The first 100 potential jurors were introduced to the judge, lawyers and defendant Monday morning, then handed a questionnaire that, a source tells Local 6, does not inquire very far beyond basic biographical data. Specifically, jurors were questioned about dealing with the hardship about sitting on a jury for perhaps six weeks.

The juror questionnaire will be released to the public when the jury is selected, officials said.

Zimmerman's wife Shellie joined other family members behind the defense table, while Martin's father and mother sat with their attorneys behind the prosecution table in the fifth-floor courtroom.

After denying a third defense attempt to delay the trial, Judge Debra Nelson said she would begin calling potential jurors to the courtroom soon after attorneys received and began reviewing the completed questionnaires.

"We will review those and send jurors up one at a time for individual voir dire," Nelson said. "Once we have 21 of those people, we will start our regular jury selection process."

Each juror will be interviewed, but ultimately, the court is only looking to identify six jurors who will determine if Zimmerman is guilty of the second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. An additional four alternate jurors are also being sought.

[VIDEO:  Sanford affected by trial | Jury selectionLocal 6 legal analyst Luis Calderon]

In addition to being allowed to challenge each juror for cause (such as an expressed, unmitigated bias, or a severe hardship), each side will begin the process with 10 pre-emptory challenges. That means they could ask for someone to to stricken for almost any reason.

Attorneys and Zimmerman went to the jury assembly room to be introduced to prospective jurors.

Nelson has ordered that the identities of the jurors to be kept confidential, as well as where they work, or any other personal information.

Zimmerman's attorneys are also expected to spend a great deal of time talking to potential jurors about Zimmerman's right to remain silent because it's unclear if he'll testify in trial.

Attorneys will also ask prospective jurors if they'll need to hear from Zimmerman himself to determine if he's innocent or guilty.

Before selection began, O'Mara, Local 6's former legal analyst argued for the trial delay on Monday morning, saying more time is needed to go over recently obtained evidence from Trayvon Martin's phone and for state audio expert Alan Reich's report.

"We're not fully ready ," said O'Mara, seeking a continuance of at least two weeks as Zimmerman sat in court, wearing a blue sport coat, dress shirt and tie. "We have issues that I do not want to come up in trial because we were not otherwise  prepared because of time."

O'Mara also said he needs time to interview Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family.

The state objected the motion to delay.


Nelson must also listen to final testimony, and then rule on whether voice recognition experts can be allowed to testify at trial. Pretrial testimony on whether experts could determine if Martin or Zimmerman was screaming for help on 911 calls took three days last week, but the matter is still unresolved.

After 16 months of questions, controversies and protests, the stage is carefully being set for Zimmerman's trial, which is expected to last more than a month.

About a dozen protestors lined up outside the Seminole County courthouse Monday morning, holding signs in favor of Martin. One of the signs read, "we say no more," and others had picture of Martin in a hooded sweatshirt.

The emotionally-charged case has drawn worldwide attention, sparking a national debate about race, equal justice and gun control.

"We're not bowing out.  We're not backing down.  There will be justice for Trayvon Martin," Al Sharpton said. "Thank you and God bless you."

"He didn't pull out a gun and shoot him," said Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman. "George has tremendous restraint. He prevented his firearm from being taken from him and used against him, and that's called saving your life."

Robert Zimmerman Jr. spoke to the media during jury selection, saying his family lives in a secluded place and they remain hopeful about the trial.

"As a family we are very confident in the outcome of the case," Robert Zimmerman said. "And we are very confident that the state will not be able to meet its burden."

Martin's father, Tracy Martin, asked people to pray for his family throughout the trial.

"We ask the community to stay peaceful as we place our faith in the justice system," Tracy Martin said just before jury selection began.

[PHOTOS: Zimmerman jury selection | READ: Expert hearing ends with no decision]

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in Martin's Feb. 26, 2012, shooting death. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.

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