Martin jurors asked about guns, self-defense

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George Zimmerman, right, talks to co-counsel Don West, during questioning of potential jurors in Seminole circuit court on the eighth day of his trial, in Sanford, Fla., Wednesday, June 19, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman's defense attorney asked a pool of 40 potential jurors on Thursday about their beliefs on three topics at the center of his second-degree murder trial: guns, self-defense and justifiable use of force.

Juror B-37, a white woman in her 40s, was asked about people carrying concealed weapons. She said she could "follow the law" but she thought there "was a responsibility" when bearing arms.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are trying to pick six jurors and four alternates this week so they can start opening statements early next week.

Zimmerman, 29, says he acted in self-defense in shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in the central Florida community of Sanford where Zimmerman lived.

Martin's shooting death on Feb. 26, 2012 — and the initial decision not to charge him — led to public outrage and demonstrations around the nation, with some accusing Sanford police of failing to thoroughly investigate the shooting.

Prosecutors have said Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer for his community, profiled the black teenager as Martin was walking back from a convenience store to the home of his father's fiancée. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara explored several other questions to get the potential jurors' views on whether they thought sympathy should play a role in deciding a case. Juror B-72, a young Hispanic man, said he wasn't affected by sympathetic people because he's never had many close relationships.

"So when a person might seem sympathetic, to me it's indifferent," he said.

O'Mara also asked the jurors about when they thought self-defense could be used. Juror H-6, a white man in his 30s, said he thought deadly force could be warranted if a person feels danger.

"I feel that if you're somewhere you're supposed to be and allowed to be, you should have the right to defend yourself," he said.

O'Mara met resistance from the judge when he tried to characterize the definition for justifiable use of deadly force.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda objected multiple times during O'Mara's line of questioning, eventually leading to Judge Debra Nelson to twice read what will be the jury instruction once the final jury is selection.

"I don't want either side to give an interpretation on the law," Nelson said.

O'Mara said screening the prospective jurors for any biases or prejudices "is probably as critical if not more critical than the evidence."

"If you bring that into the courtroom, then what we can't get is a fair verdict," he said.

Twenty-seven of the 40 potential jurors are white, seven are black, three are mixed race and three are Hispanic. Twenty-four are women and 16 are men.


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