SANFORD, Fla. - As prosecutors and defense attorneys conduct a fourth day of interviews with prospective jurors, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson rules that the jurors will be sequestered for the two- to four-week murder trial of George Zimmerman.
Attorneys continue questioning jury candidates Thursday about what media stories they had been exposed to about the neighborhood watch volunteer's fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during an altercation in a Sanford gated community last year.
Attorneys began Thursday with a pool of 20 potential jurors who they wanted for a second round of questioning. They needed an additional 10 candidates before they could move past the first round of asking questions about what potential jurors knew about the case from news coverage or social media.
FULL COVERAGE: The George Zimmerman trial
Attorneys need to find six jurors and four alternates. In Florida, 12 jurors are required only for criminal trials involving capital cases, when the death penalty is being considered.
Four potential jurors were dismissed Wednesday, raising the total of jury candidates who've been disqualified to 75. Among the jurors dismissed was 55-year-old unemployed painter and guitar player Jerry Counelis after defense attorneys found a 2012 Facebook post about the case on "The Coffee Party Progressive" Facebook page.
Among those interviewed was a white man in his 20s who left the courtroom without being asked questions by defense attorneys after he gave answers to prosecutors indicating he wouldn't be impartial. The juror, known as "R-39" because potential panelists can be identified only by their numbers, said that "murder is murder," even if it's self-defense.
Zimmerman, 29, is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he shot Martin in self-defense.
A 44-day delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to protests around the U.S. more than a year ago. Critics questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was seriously investigating the case of Martin, a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Potential jurors who were questioned Wednesday also included a white man in his 50s whose prior Facebook posting earned a question from Judge Debra Nelson. The nature of the posting wasn't disclosed but the judge asked the self-described painter and musician if he had made it. He said yes and left the courtroom a few minutes later. Earlier in the questioning, he said he thought Zimmerman should have been arrested but he hadn't formed an opinion on his guilt or innocence.
Nelson has said she will keep the identities of the selected jurors anonymous but she rejected a defense request to sequester the initial jury pool of 500 residents.
After Wednesday's courtroom session had ended, Martin's father, Tracy Martin, said his family felt good so far about the jury selection process.
Tracy Martin said, "We are encouraged as a family that we can get justice for our son Trayvon, and we expect the public to come forth and be honest as potential jurors."
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