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Local News

June 24, 2013

Zimmerman jurors begin life in sequestration

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The six jurors and four alternates who will hear opening statements today in George Zimmerman’s murder trial are beginning their time together in a sequestered bubble: They won’t return to their homes for weeks, contact with family and friends will be limited, and Internet and phone usage is restricted.

Court officials are keeping mum about the details of the jury sequestration, which begins this week. But if past cases are any example, the Zimmerman jurors won’t be able to tweet or blog. They’ll read only newspapers that have been censored of anything dealing with the case. They will do almost everything together as a group. In their hotel rooms, TV news channels will be inaccessible and landline telephones likely will be removed. Deputies will keep the jurors’ cellphones and give them back once a day so they can call loved ones and friends.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys say the sequestration is necessary to eliminate jurors’ exposure to outside influences as they consider whether the neighborhood watch volunteer committed murder last year when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. After spending almost two weeks picking a jury, the attorneys will make opening statements Monday.

“Your contact with the outside world will be severely limited,” prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda warned potential jurors last week.

Potential jurors looked surprised and glum as the details sank in. One potential juror, a woman who wasn’t picked, asked whether court sessions would be held seven days a week during the trial since jurors weren’t going to go home. Circuit Judge Debra Nelson said, “No.”

“So everyone else will get to go home on weekends but us?” the potential juror asked.

The judge answered “yes” and tried to reassure potential jurors that they wouldn’t be cooped up in hotel rooms when not at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford. Nelson explained that their meals, transportation and personal needs would be taken care of.

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