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Battle over Zimmerman jury ends after last two black candidates dismissed for concealing information

The six person jury will be five white women and one woman described as “black or Hispanic.” The four alternates are two white men, a white woman, and a Hispanic man. The prosecution wanted a lot more blacks on the jury.

From Orlando Sentinel…

Six women, all but one of them white, will decide whether Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a case that sparked widespread outrage and prompted civil rights marches.

They will begin their work — listening to testimony and evaluating evidence — Monday morning.

On Thursday, attorneys who had individually questioned nearly 100 prospective jurors, went one-by-one, picking the six plus four alternates.

It was dramatic, contentious and race was very much at play.

The process was moving along smoothly when defense attorney Mark O’Mara piped up.

“I would now ask the state to give a race-neutral reason why they have struck four white women in a row,” he said.

In response, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson asked Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda to give his race- and gender-neutral explanations for each strike.

He did, but the judge rejected the prosecutor’s argument in the case of two of the women — both of whom ended up on the jury.

One is a stay-at-home mother who on Wednesday challenged de la Rionda when he described circumstantial evidence as being as solid as direct evidence. The other is an unemployed woman who said her daughter — talking about Trayvon — wanted to know “Why was this kid out at night getting candy?”

Moments later while picking alternates, O’Mara struck two black women from the jury pool. De la Rionda challenged him, but O’Mara convinced the prosecutor that one was a friend of a witness in the case and had failed to disclose that.

As for the other, the judge agreed that the woman should be excused after O’Mara argued that she worked at a church that had actively and aggressively advocated for Zimmerman’s arrest — but that she had made no mention of that.

At the end of the day O’Mara said he had played by the rules.

“That’s how the process works,” he said. “Tell me that we did something wrong with this process and I’ll look at it.”

De la Rionda left the courtroom without comment.

Family members of Trayvon Martin during jury selection.

Family members of Trayvon Martin during jury selection.