Four days into the most high-profile jury selection in America, the judge in the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin acknowledge how influential — and easily influenced — the 10 jurors will be, and they haven't even been picked yet. But Judge Debra Nelson ordered the deciders-in-waiting to be sequestered for the length of the trial, in a kind of side jab at the defense potentially signaling that she is unwilling to let George Zimmerman's attorneys sway objectivity with a public smearing of Martin's past.
Nelson revealed the sequestration plans to a jury candidate, stating that the final jurors would be kept in isolation for two to four weeks — the expected length of the actual proceedings. "It was the first time Judge Debra Nelson has weighed in on whether jurors will be sequestered," the Assocated Press reports. But it's not the first time she has weighed in on the ongoing campaign by the defense — she ruled inadmissible Team Zimmerman's evidence of Martin's history of "violence" and marijuana use.
And while early juror questioning has centered on how much potential jurors read about the case, this may not be a direct blow to the defense. Zimmerman's lawyers did make a request to sequester the initial jury pool of 500 potential jurors, which Nelson shot down. But they did drop hints during the first days of jury selection that they would be asking Nelson to sequester jurors. "Defense attorneys asked potential jurors if being isolated during the trial would be a hardship, indicating they plan to ask Nelson to sequester the jury," the AP reported on Wednesday, possibly indicating that the publicity of the trial may end up putting pressure on jurors and that the defense might not have the upper hand from leaks after all.
In the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial, prosecutors in that case asked for and were granted sequestration of the jury. And experts told The Los Angeles Times at the time that it worked in favor of the prosecutors since, aside from the unavoidable run-up to that mega-watt trial, jury members had an incentive to come to an agreement sooner. Simply put, they have lives to get back to. And we know how that trial turned out.
What we also know is that lawyers on both sides have a distinct interest in what news potential jurors are reading. Given the divisive coverage of the case, and Zimmerman's defense team's strategy of leaking of information about Martin's character, a jury member who reads certain outlets could conceivably go into the case with information that the judge has ruled irrelevant. No matter what news outlets these jurors read, they won't be doing any of it during the trial.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.