Jury selection began Monday for George Zimmerman, the man on trial for the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin. The selection process is expected to take two weeks, and the first day began with peaceful assemblers meeting outside of the Seminole County Courthouse.
Zimmerman’s name and what many believe he represents remained a point of contention for some assemblers. Zee, a 26-year-old white female, spoke passionately about race, rights and infringement in connection with the case. She is affiliated with Revolution publication, the self-described “Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA,” and declined further identification to Politic365.
The young woman said that people cannot passively expect the judicial system to do right by the Trayvon Martins of the world.
“The people have to keep the system on its toes,” she said. “We can’t rely on the system to obtain justice for us,” adding that black and Latino youth are routinely mistreated by racist vigilantes and wayward corrections officers.
In cooler tones, several Florida A&M University College of Law students also assembled. They spoke with calculated voices to the media; each said she could not speak for the institution, but could offer perspectives as a private citizen.
Tierrel Mathis, a third-year law student and president of FAMU’s Student Bar Association, said that she came to “peacefully observe justice” and encourage others to see the justice system at work. Mathis said that she and other students were not “protesting,” but learning about the legal field through a high-profile case.
This case inspired global discourse on gun reform, racial profiling and protecting minors. It also inspired unifying stories, rallies and National Hoodie Day, a day of respect for and solidarity with Martin by wearing hooded sweatshirts as he did the night he died. Monday was 2013’s National Hoodie Day.
Hoodies, color and connotations remain central to discussions of the Zimmerman case. Legal experts say that race can also affect jury selection.
Jacksonville, Fla. attorney Randy Reep told USA Today, “Both sides are going to have to be careful in juror selection because the race issues in this case are highly charged. If I were the prosecutor in this case, I would be desiring to have black people or other minorities who have had bad experiences based on their ‘profileable’ characteristics.”
Others emphasized a need for impartiality to uphold the juror selection process.
Elizabeth Parker, a criminal defense attorney in Palm Beach, Fla. told USA Today, “The most important thing will be picking a jury that will follow the law, will look at the facts in a fair manner, and that is going to not be sidetracked by the other issues.”
Many of Monday’s assemblers wondered aloud if it is possible to find jurors without prior knowledge and influences regarding the case.
As both sides in the courtroom present their best arguments, outside concerns hover in a hazy case about a foggy night where one man left his vehicle to pursue a teenaged pedestrian, a scuffle ensued and the man shot and killed the teen.
While law students in attendance expressed faith in the justice system to reach the appropriate outcome, others were less optimistic. Citing the 44 days it took for Zimmerman to be charged and the frequency of unarmed youth of color dying untimely deaths, Zee said, “People need to stand up and say that’s not ok with us.”