SANFORD, Fla. — The George Zimmerman murder trial began Monday with the first day of jury selection, but attorneys failed to choose a single juror.
They reviewed what prospective jurors wrote on a questionnaire and did preliminary interviews of four possible panel members, but what quickly became clear is that finding a panel of six jurors plus four alternates in the high-profile case could take a very long time.
The work is to resume today at 9 a.m. when more than 100 prospective jurors are expected to report to the courthouse. Dozens of prospective jurors who never made it into the courtroom Monday also are expected back.
The trial, although much anticipated, did not draw a flood of protesters or even onlookers. Only a couple of dozen appeared throughout the day. They were peaceful, tended to seek out shade and were far outnumbered by reporters and photographers.
Attorneys spent much of Monday afternoon individually asking prospective jurors what they know about the case. They questioned four, but they're not finished with them. In their questions, the lawyers asked only about pretrial publicity.
The process was slow and awkward and designed, at least in the first phase, to eliminate people who, despite what they wrote on their questionnaires, might be tainted because they know some details about what happened Feb. 26, 2012, the night Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in Sanford.
Zimmerman, a former Neighborhood Watch volunteer, is charged with second-degree murder. He says Martin, a high school junior from Miami Gardens, attacked him and that he shot the teenager in self-defense.
Attorneys need six jurors and four alternates before they can begin presenting evidence.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara earlier predicted that jury selection would last two to three weeks and the rest of the trial two to three more.
Zimmerman, was more animated than usual. He normally sits silently at the defense table and interacts very little with his attorneys. But on Monday, he appeared more relaxed and chatted with Robert Hirschhorn, an attorney and jury consultant.
Sitting behind him was his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, who was accompanied by a bodyguard.
Martin's parents sat through much of the day's proceedings beside their attorney, Benjamin Crump and behind Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, the state attorney in Jacksonville.
The process implemented by Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson was designed to pick out qualified jurors while protecting their identities.
They were brought into the courtroom one at a time and referred to only by numbers — an attempt to protect their privacy and shield them from people who might want to talk to them about the case or question them.
Defense attorney Don West hinted that jurors may be sequestered once a panel is sworn in when he asked a nursing home employee who works the third shift on an Alzheimer's ward if she could afford to give up several weeks of pay and be away from her seven children, who range in age from 19 to 3.
"If I have to do the sacrifice, I will do the sacrifice," she answered.
The judge started the day by hearing O'Mara's third request for a trial delay. Last week, prosecutors handed over more than 1,000 pages of evidence from Martin's cellphone — many of them photos — O'Mara said.
"We're not fully ready," he said Monday. "We need more time."
The judge denied the motion.