By Alexandria Brown, UNF
SANFORD, Fla. -- Wednesday in Sanford, the third day of jury selection began in the George Zimmerman trial. Known in the legal community as "voir dire" ("to speak the truth"), a case can essentially be won or lost in this process. This is a very important and extensive task that could take weeks to complete.Court reconvened a little after 9 a.m. Wednesday and the questioning of potential jurors began immediately.
Sanford's jurisdiction uses a one-by-one selection process in which counsel questions potential jurors one at a time. After questioning, the judge immediately meets and takes challenges from each side.
Before breaking for lunch recess at noon, four potential jurors were examined regarding their questionnaires that were filled out on Monday. These questionnaires are simple, asking about age, address, educational and occupational history, previous service on a jury and what they know about the case at hand.
Because this is a high-profile trial, each team is looking to compile an unbiased jury. More importantly, the attorneys are looking for relevant and favorable characteristics from each panelist. Obtaining this information is no easy task. At the risk of offending panelists or touching on sensitive subjects, attorneys must inconspicuously ask questions that may hint on the panelist's viewpoint. Although the questions are basic, they give the attorneys the inside information they need in order to select a favorable jury.
Most panelists were asked first where they get their news from. This would help the attorneys identify demographic characteristics about the potential juror and determine if they fit the profile the attorney is looking for. Panelists were asked what they recall hearing from the media in the last 16 months, and if they did additional research on their own. Other questions regarding employment at the time Trayvon Martin was killed can identify how much free time the potential juror had to view the publicity of this case. Other topics were covered, such as involvement in community social organizations, race and opinionated statements peers on social media have made.
Some panelists expressed their concern about joining the jury on such a high profile case. Many are concerned with the possibility of being sequestered for long periods of time and the hardship it might cause on their families as well as their jobs. Additionally, some panelists are apprehensive for their safety.All of these concerns have been taken into consideration by the court. Opening statements are set to begin shortly after the conclusion of jury selection.
Alexandria Brown is a 20 year old senior from the University of North Florida's pre-law program. She is a political science major with focus in public law. She will be attending law school in the fall of 2014.