Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Zimmerman Jury Selection Day Eight Wrap-Up ^ | 6-19-2013 | Andrew Branca

Posted on 06/20/2013 5:05:13 AM PDT by servo1969

Today was the first day of general voir dire of the prospective jurors, now numbering 40. (Click here for a compilation of our notes on all 40 prospective jurors.) The prospective jurors were to be questioned en masse, which required some reorganization of the courtroom. Interestingly, this re-arrangement had George Zimmerman sitting only a few feet away fro Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Formal Reading of the Criminal Charge

At the start Judge Nelson read the jury the criminal charge, which is murder in the second degree, with an add-on firearm charge. Then things were turned over to de la Rionda, who would do all of today’s vior dire (with the defense to have their turn tomorrow).

State Gets First Turn at General Voir Dire

The voir dire was much more fast-paced than had been the case with the past days pre-trial publicity voir dire. The State began a discussion of the presumption of innocence, reasonable doubt, and similar matters.

#Zimmerman: State now asking group questions. Clarifying "reasonable" in reasonable doubt and "presumed" in presumed innocent. #Trayvon

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

#Zimmerman: P67 on jury service: "looking forward to have a nice learning experience, but somehow it's turning into a nightmare." #Trayvon

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

He then transitioned to asking for some basic biographical information from the prospective jurors, such as how long they had lived in Seminole county and whether they were married, if they had ever done military service, or had served on a jury before (about a dozen had).

Idiosyncratic Highlights

A few interesting, if idiosyncratic, highlights:

#Zimmerman: H7 is an NRA instructor and active in the boy scouts where he teaches rifling to the boys for that merit badge. #TrayvonMartin

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

For the most part, however, these questions revealed little about the individuals that one might think useful in determining whether they could serve as fair and impartial jurors.

State’s “Questioning” Involved Relatively Few Actual Questions, Many Suggestions

After the lunch recess, things became somewhat more interesting, however–and, perhaps revealing of the State’s trial strategy.

I’ve included a great many details of the afternoon questions below, to enable the reader to gain a sense of the flavor of the questioning, such as it was, and the temperament of some of the individual prospective jurors.

There was, however, an unavoidable overall impression that emerged for the afternoon questioning, driven perhaps by the very large proportion of the time that de la Rionda spent speaking (sometimes asking questions, other time extemporizing), and how little of the time was taken up by the prospective jurors answering questions.

Laying the Foundation for the State’s Theory of the Case?

It quickly became clear the de la Rionda’s goal in the afternoon was less to learn new information about the candidates than it was to impart to them a certain perspective of the events in question, of the laws that would apply, and of the unreasonableness of a person (unnamed) who would “take the law into their own hands.”

Bernie de la Rionda began asking the candidates a series of questions addressed to them collectively that seemed clearly intended not to solicit information and insight but rather to require the candidates to commit themselves, at least emotionally, to a series of propositions.

“Do you understand and agree that the state must prove it’s case beyond a reasonable doubt?”

He then followed up by extemporizing that “reasonable doubt” doesn’t mean “no doubt.”

“Do you agree that Mr. Zimmerman is presumed innocent?”

He followed this question by emphasizing that “presumed innocent” doesn’t mean “can’t be guilty.”

He also mentioned that “this isn’t like TV,” and that the level of proof they will likely see won’t be the dramatic breakdown and confession of a witness on the stand.

He then shifted to a series of questions he posed to the group collectively, but which he asked them to respond to individually by raising their hands.

Anyone Ever Been Arrested: 18% Say Yes

“Has anyone every been arrested?” B12, B29, B35, E6, H7, H81, and I33 each raised their hands, with only I33 saying that he felt he wasn’t treated fairly, but that he could set that aside to be a fair and impartial juror.

7 of 40 prospective jurors in #Zimmerman trial have been arrested. #Trayvon.

— Rene Stutzman (@renestutzman) June 19, 2013

“Has anyone ever been the subject of a criminal investigation?” No one had.

“Has anyone close to you ever been arrested, and you felt they were treated unfairly?”

B7, K95, and B61 said they had friends in such situations, but that they could set it aside.

“Anyone Been A Victim of a Crime?” 35% Yes, 10% of Violent Crime

Then he asked, “Has anyone been a victim of a crime?”

Astonishingly, 14 of the prospective jurors, fully 35% of this limited pool of candidates, responded in the affirmative. For comparative purposes, on a national basis only about 6% of Americans report being a victim of crime (US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010).

Of these 14, 4 (10% of the pool) reported they had been victims of violent crime. (Nationally, the average is 1%, so an order of magnitude lower. Ibid.)

14 jurors were victims of crime, 4 of violent crime. Who still thinks personal protection isn't important? #Zimmerman #TrayvonMartin

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

B86 had been robbed at work (a fast-food restaurant) by a guy wearing a stocking and waving a gun. Later she was robbed again, similar circumstances.

#Zimmerman B86's work was robbed at gunpoint twice by same man. Says responding police was "snide" and scared her more than robber. #Trayvon

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

E73 remarked, with elaborating in detail, that she had been the victim of a crime very similar to Mr. Zimmerman’s case. When asked if she could set that aside she indicated probably not, noting that “it’s always on my mind.”

#Zimmerman: E73 was a victim of a violent crime that is very similar to what happened in this case. Says "it's always on my mind." #Trayvon

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

“Is There Violent ] in Your Community?” 100% Yes

“Do you believe there has been crime in the community you live in?” The response was unanimously affirmative.

“Is It Right To Take Law Into Your Own Hands?” Jurors Say No, But Some Soon Become Uneasy

de la Rionda then started asking about Neighborhood watches. He particularly focused in on the theme of whether people should “take the law into their own hands,” and involved themselves in a bad situation. Based on his phrasing, the majority of prospective jurors initially agreed with his propositions. As de la Rionda continued to advance this theme, however, he quickly began to rush into pushback from the prospective jurors.

Jurors Begin to Challenge de la Rionda’s Propositions

G63 was the first to challenge one of de la Rionda’s propositions, saying that the phrase “putting it into your own hands” painted with too broad a brush. He suggested that because we elect the officials who manage law enforcement, we are taking matters into our own hands. Although rather clearly missing the point, G63′s interjection seemed to open the floodgates to other prospective jurors saying, essentially, “well, wait a second there.”

H7 jumped in by asking “where citizen’s arrest would fit into that.” de la Rionda appeared to scoff, asking “has it ever crossed any of your minds to just go out there and start arresting people?” (His tone here was notably similar to some of the more petulant briefings submitted over Mr. de la Rionda’s signature in response to defense motions, particularly defense motions for sanctions.) The absolute lack of response from the pool of jurors is perhaps a reflection of the inanity of the question.

Apparently taking the silence as meaning he had scored some kind of point, de la Rionda choose to double down and challenge the prospective jurors: ”Anybody?”

This time he began to get responses, but perhaps not the ones he was looking for. I24 said that she hadn’t gone out to arrest people, but that she would certainly get involved if someone was breaking into her own house and she needed to protect her family. de la Rionda, again in a scoffing tone, said, “In your house, sure, but would you go out and patrol your neighborhood?” He spent considerable time on the matter of “taking the law into your own hands,” not so much in the form of questions but in the form of a soliloquy.

It seemed apparent that de la Rionda was laying the groundwork for future derogation of Zimmerman’s Neighborhood Watch role (a program entered into by his community generally, and overseen by two police officers from the Sandford Police Department, including training and ongoing advice).

“Neighborhood Watch Program in Your Neighborhood?” 25% Say Yes, but Not Personally Involved

He then progressed into a more detailed questioning, on a juror by juror basis, of who had Neighborhood Watch Programs in their communities. Ten of the jurors, fully 25%, answered in the affirmative: B7, E73, E22, K80, K95, G14, G47, G63, H18, H29. None, however, said they were personally involved.

Several jurors live in communities with neighborhood watch, but aren't involved. #TrayvonMartin #GeorgeZimmerman

— Jeff Weiner (@JeffWeinerOS) June 19, 2013

One juror's husband is a "block captain," but she doesn't know what that means. #TrayvonMartin #GeorgeZimmerman

— Jeff Weiner (@JeffWeinerOS) June 19, 2013

“Any Experience in Fighting Sports, Advanced Cell Phone Skills?”

Interestingly, he also asked the prospective jurors if they had any experience in fighting sports, as well as if they had any advanced knowledge of cell phones. The first question seems obviously geared to identifying either any specialized knowledge of how devastating the damage of Martin’s bare-handed attack would have been to a man’s face with his head pinned against a concrete sidewalk. The second seemed as if it might have relevancy to almost accidental discovery, very late in the discovery process, of images and other content on Martin’s cell phone, content that had not been disclosed in the State’s mandated discovery report to the defense.

“Got Any Guns?” 30% Own Guns Themselves, Another 30% Know Family/Friends Do

Particularly interesting to this gun owner and competitive shooter was de la Rionda’s next line of questioning, which asked about their individual relationship with firearms, if they owned them, and what type.
Being a firearms instructor, H7 was the most informed on the subject, but at least 10 other prospective jurors also reported owning personal firearms (B35, K80, K95, G66, I44, I33, I24, H81, H29, and H18). B37 reported having once possessed a concealed carry weapons (CCW) license, but said she did not renew it because she rarely carried. She acknowledged that there were still guns in her home, but suggested they were really her husband’s rather than hers.

H-7 has guns, is an NRA member. H-6: Father owns "numerous guns." #TrayvonMartin #GeorgeZimmerman

— Jeff Weiner (@JeffWeinerOS) June 19, 2013

I-44: Handgun. I-33: rifles & shotguns. I-19: Father has guns. H-86: Brother in law. H-81: Has 2 handguns. #TrayvonMartin #GeorgeZimmerman

— Jeff Weiner (@JeffWeinerOS) June 19, 2013

Another dozen jurors did not own a gun personally, but knew guns to be owned by their immediate family or close friends: B76 (family), E6 (husband & son), E40 (brother-in-law), B12 (son, mother, sister), M75 (brother-in-law), B61 (friends), B7 (father), E13 (stepfather), B86 (brother), I19 father, H86 (brother-in-law), H35 (mother), H6 (father).

#Zimmerman Trial: That's 12 jurors that own or owned guns and another 13 with close relations or friends that have them. #Trayvonmartin

— Andrew Branca, LOSD (@LawSelfDefense) June 19, 2013

Perhaps most shocking to this gun owner living in a blue state is how open the prospective jurors were in the detail with which they described the guns owned by themselves, their spouses, their family and their friends. I can assure you that in Metro-Boston such revelations are simply not done in polite company.

de la Rionda’s final question of the day was, “Does everyone agree that people should be held responsible for their actions,” and the candidates answered unanimously in the affirmative.

Closing Thoughts

As a closing note, it struck this observer as remarkable how large a proportion of the day involved de la Rionda speaking, rather than any of the prospective jurors. His speech was often long, somewhat rambling, and ultimately appeared to be an effort at conditioning the prospective jurors to a particular judgmental and emotional position–for example, participating in Neighborhood Watch is somehow similar to taking the law into your own hands.

Given the (to this New Englander’s eyes) somewhat astonishing responses–35% having been victims of crime, 10% having been victims of violent crime, 25% having Neighborhood Watch programs in their community, 30% owning or having owned personal firearms (the one having owned also having possessed a CCW), and another 30% having family or close friends who own guns–I’m not sure whether de la Rionda’s apparent selling proposition–which seems to be that Zimmerman took the law into his own hands–is being targeted at an amenable market.

The survivability of such a theory of the case seems particularly uncertain given the actual facts in evidence, which overwhelmingly favor the defense. For example, will it really be a credible argument that Zimmerman was seeking to “take the law into his own hands” when it was he who phoned the police, in his role as leader of his Neighborhood Watch Program to report a suspicious person in his neighborhood plagued with robberies?

This disconnect between the State’s apparent theory of the case and the actual facts in evidence is likely reason that de la Rionda emphasized to the jurors the worth of circumstantial evidence. The value of circumstantial evidence normally arises when there is a paucity of direct evidence. There is a considerable body of evidence in this case, but given that little if any of it favors the State’s position they are in effect left in a terrain largely barren of direct evidence.

Bernie; "Circumstantial evidence is just as good as direct evidence." Gonna be key to his case against #GeorgeZimmerman, #Trayvon

— Rene Stutzman (@renestutzman) June 19, 2013

Well, that’s it for tonight’s wrap-up.

Join us again tomorrow morning, 9AM, for our ongoing live-stream, all-day coverage of day 9 of jury selection. Tomorrow it will be the turn of the defense to voir dire the juror candidates. In addition, we expect to see the return of the State’s expert witness Mr. Tom Owens, of the infamous line “this [audio file] is not really good evidence”, tomorrow at 2:00PM.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: banglist; george; guncontrol; jury; martin; nra; secondamendment; treyvon; zimmerman

1 posted on 06/20/2013 5:05:13 AM PDT by servo1969
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: servo1969


2 posted on 06/20/2013 5:10:49 AM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: servo1969

What’s the race count now? That’s all that really matters.

3 posted on 06/20/2013 5:12:38 AM PDT by MNDude (Sorry for typos. Probably written on a smartphone, and I have big clumsy fingers.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MNDude

What’s the race count now? That’s all that really matters.


4 posted on 06/20/2013 5:18:07 AM PDT by deport
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: MNDude

The group of 40 could have been randomly drawn as far as racial and sex demographics go.

5 posted on 06/20/2013 5:20:25 AM PDT by Cboldt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: servo1969
He then followed up by extemporizing that “reasonable doubt” doesn’t mean “no doubt.”

He followed this question by emphasizing that “presumed innocent” doesn’t mean “can’t be guilty.”

He also mentioned that “this isn’t like TV,” and that the level of proof they will likely see won’t be the dramatic breakdown and confession of a witness on the stand.

In all fairness, these are not uncommon clarifications. And prosecutors for years have had to emphasize the latter point because people now expect to see CSI-like evidence in even the simplest criminal cases.

6 posted on 06/20/2013 5:22:58 AM PDT by FoxInSocks ("Hope is not a course of action." -- M. O'Neal, USMC)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: servo1969
Thank you Andrew, for yeoman's work.

I'm not very comfortable with the first ten or so jurors (I didn't read them all)

George is going to get screwed unless defense can get SOMEthing dramatic in front of the jury.

7 posted on 06/20/2013 5:27:18 AM PDT by knarf (I say things that are true ... I have no proof, but they're true.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: servo1969
A a Floridian, I'm appalled at the level the state is willing to sink to in charging 2nd degree murder. More railroading going on than at CSX.
8 posted on 06/20/2013 5:37:54 AM PDT by JPG (Stay strong.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: servo1969

“Bernie; “Circumstantial evidence is just as good as direct evidence.”

I know judges that would have called him to the bench for a chat over that.

9 posted on 06/20/2013 6:00:30 AM PDT by Beagle8U (Free Republic -- One stop shopping ....... It's the Conservative Super WalMart for news .)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Beagle8U

So what brought about the all-woman jury? Was this deliberately done by the judge? Is the thinking that the women would be more sympathetic to the deceased than to the accused? We need to discuss this aspect of the case.

10 posted on 06/21/2013 4:28:53 AM PDT by Theodore R. ("Hey, the American people must all be crazy out there!")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Cboldt
I have a question about how the group of 40 were interviewed in part 2. Here in CA, the jurors are randomly selected from the pool to go through voir dire.

The questioning of the 40 jurors appeared to have been in sequence... The “B” group first and then the “E” group, etc. Does that mean that each side knew which potential juror was next up to go through voir dire? That's a whole different ball game, it would seem to me.

11 posted on 06/21/2013 7:31:21 AM PDT by Aunt Polgara
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Aunt Polgara
The questioning when the jurors were in a group setting, all 40 in the courtroom, was whatever order the lawyers wanted. Picture classroom and the teacher calls on either volunteers, or picks on somebody.

The order of jurors, their "seniority" is a good way to think of it, is supposedly set randomly, but I don't how the court does that. The court would them empanel a jury of 6 in seniority order, and ask each side for strikes. After a round of strikes, the court would fill the vacancies with the next most senior prospect.

By the time they got around to strikes, and probably before the 40 came into the courtroom as a group, both sides knew the seniority order.

12 posted on 06/21/2013 8:34:07 AM PDT by Cboldt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Cboldt
hmm.. I now realize I wasn't clear with my question, and you skillfully answered it anyway. :-)

My question was (after the questioning of the 40 was done), how was it determined who got seated when. If everyone knew what the seniority was, then then would know who was coming up next after someone got struck. That's very different than here in CA. As far as I know, not even the judge knows who will be up next. The judge has a stack of shuffled index cards and calls the potential jurors up from the stack. It seems to me that the luck of the draw (here in CA) vs knowing who is next to be seated would change the lawyers’ strategy in a very fundamental way.

13 posted on 06/21/2013 9:26:13 AM PDT by Aunt Polgara
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Aunt Polgara
-- It seems to me that the luck of the draw (here in CA) vs knowing who is next to be seated would change the lawyers' strategy in a very fundamental way. --

Yes, it would. And I think (re)randomizing at the point of striking is superior to taking them in the already set seniority order. Makes it much more difficult for anybody to game the system.

14 posted on 06/21/2013 9:54:51 AM PDT by Cboldt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Cboldt

Well, at least both sides have the same ability to game the system equally. :-(

I’m really surprised that the jury ended up with 5 white women (and one ? woman). I can’t see the grievance mongers accepting any verdict from this jury that isn’t GUILTY, Guilty, Guilty! I expect there to be demonstrations before the verdict is even read, and then Eric Holder will swoop down and charge GZ with civil rights violations if GZ goes free.

15 posted on 06/21/2013 11:24:55 AM PDT by Aunt Polgara
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: Aunt Polgara
Oh yeah. The demonstrations will peak near the time the jury is charged with deciding the case. I see about 50/50 chance of acquittal. The other half is hung jury. There is zero probability of a guilty verdict, IMO. The state's evidence is that weak, and the self defense evidence is that strong.

The feds are going to have a hard time floating civil right charges. It was easier in the Rodney King case because police officers right to use force is sort of built in to their jobs, and they are judged by a completely different standard.

16 posted on 06/21/2013 12:25:52 PM PDT by Cboldt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson