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Proceedings are underway for one of the most polarizing U.S. cases in the last few years; George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, is standing trial for the murder of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Here’s a rundown of the months leading up to the first day of court and a little background on the case.
In February of 2012, George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman and Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old staying with his father in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, were involved in an altercation. Zimmerman, who is half-Hispanic, saw Martin, who was African-American as a suspicious character. Martin was returning home from buying snacks at a corner store. Zimmerman pursued the unarmed 17 year-old and after a physical altercation, Martin was shot and killed. Zimmerman sustained injuries to his face.
Zimmerman’s lawyers claim that Martin attacked the neighborhood watchman and that the shot fired was self-defense. Martin’s Family’s lawyers claim that Zimmerman attacked Martin and shot him in cold blood. Neighbors claim to have heard screams before the gunshot, though it’s unclear whether the noises were made by Martin or Zimmerman.
In the last months new evidence has come to light, sides have been taken, and there have been pre-trial arguments over everything from words to cell-phone pictures. Listed below are the highlights.
Use of Martin’s Text Messages and Pictures from Phone
In May, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, presented texts and pictures from Trayvon Martin’s phone. These included photos of guns, marijuana plants, and Martin smoking. The texts between Martin and his friends were about him smoking weed, cutting class, being apprehended by police, and subsequently being kicked out his mother’s house.
In an article on CNN, Martin’s Family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, argued that the evidence was irrelevant to the case and was, “a desperate and pathetic attempt by the defense to pollute and sway the jury pool.”
War of the Words
In June, Judge Debra Nelson, who is overseeing the trial allowed for the word “vigilante” to be used to describe Zimmerman. However, she barred the use of the phrase “racial profiling” to describe Zimmerman’s actions. She did allow he use of the word “profiling” without the racial qualification.
O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lawyer, said that even without the word “race” included, it was obvious what is being referred to. “It was quite apparent, when you use the term profiling, its like peanut butter and jelly. Profiling and racial. In a case of this magnitude,” he said. O’Mara also fought against the use of phrases like “wanna-be cop.”
State prosecutor, John Guy, agreed not to use the phrase “self-appointed Neighborhood Watchman Captain.”
Choosing a Jury
This month, lawyers questioned potential jurors for the trial. They hoped to figure out whether any of them had potential-leanings toward the defense or prosecutors. They asked about mostly about their media consumption.
In a New York Times article about the selection process, some potential jurors, who were referred to by numbers instead of by name, said that they feared backlash if they were identified.
Hundreds people were interviewed as a prospective jury members and last week, six were chosen. The jury consists entirely of white women except for one member, a hispanic woman. Almost all of the jurors have children.
Track the progress of the trial with the articles below:
“Trayvon Martin trial: Prosecution’s star witness, Rachel Jeantel, grilled by defense”
“Trayvon Martin case: Jury can hear five 911 calls from George Zimmerman”
“Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps”
“Running, a Fight and Then a Shot, a Witness Testifies in Zimmerman’s Trial”