Given broad concern in the black community about Trayvon’s death and the local police department’s initial failure to charge Zimmerman, prosecutors are likely to push for at least one or two African-American jurors, though jurors cannot be excused or retained solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
As the selection process continues, attorneys on both sides are trying to analyze potential jurors’ attitudes toward government, guns, and self-defense, while probing about how and where jury candidates get their news.
“When you have this amount of pretrial publicity and a case where the community’s reputation itself is involved, and you combine that with racial issues in the background – or foreground – you have the perfect storm for a difficult jury selection,” says Jeffrey Abramson, a government and law professor at the University of Texas (UT), in Austin. “More important, though, than whether jurors are African-American, non-Hispanic white, or Hispanic are their starting attitudes about whether they think [the cit of] Sanford itself is under attack, whether they think there’s too much crime, and what they would do if they saw a stranger in their neighborhood. These are predictive, I think, more than race or ethnicity.”
A crucial concern for both sides is the prospect that a juror on a mission will slip through the vetting process and poison the verdict.
“The one real problem you have in situations like this is individuals with agendas,” says Bob Dekle, a law professor at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. “They’re savvy enough about the courts, they know what the correct answers are to get on the jury … [and then they exact] their own particular form of justice. If you get one juror like that, you’re sunk.”