Feature

Can George Zimmerman get a fair trial?

After 15 months of intense media coverage, the man who says he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense has his day in court

Jury selection began Monday in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Zimmerman, who is white and Latino, says he shot Martin, an unarmed black teen, in self-defense. The racially charged case has been splashed in the headlines for more than a year, and Zimmerman's brother, Robert, says he doubts it will possible to find impartial jurors. After all the publicity, is there any chance the trial be fair?

(Related: Read our helpful timeline on the case.)

Zimmerman's lawyers say they are concerned that the case's racial overtones could make jury selection tricky. Still, they must think there are six jurors and four alternates in the Sanford, Fla., area who can listen to testimony with an open mind. Liz Goodwin notes at Yahoo News that if the defense weren't confident, it could have requested a change of venue — but it didn't.

A change of venue might not have helped though. There is no denying that the entire community has had access to the details of the investigation — from witness statements to 911 calls to police reports and autopsy results. But Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post notes that everyone in the country has been able to ponder the case "as if we were detectives on Law & Order."

Of course, this is far from the first case in which widespread media coverage has made it difficult to find jurors who aren't already leaning one way or the other. As in every such case, says Rene Stutzman in The Orlando Sentinel, the defense and the prosecution will just have to ensure that they pick at least some jurors they think will be sympathetic to their arguments.

Defense attorneys will likely favor people age 40 and older, predicted Orlando jury consultant Susan Constantine. They'll also want managers, authority figures, people who are analytic — engineers, for example — those who are unemotional and will focus on the facts.

Expect prosecutors to favor people ages 18 to 35, those with lower-paying jobs — for example, social workers, construction workers or people in service industries — and, in general, those who rely more on emotion in making decisions, Constantine said. Defense attorneys will favor whites, prosecutors blacks, she said. [Orlando Sentinel]

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