George Zimmerman at jury selection for his trial (Pool/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Meet the jury of George Zimmerman's peers: no men and just one person who shares his Latino ethnicity.

After nine days of painstaking screenings from a jury pool of 500, six women have been seated to hear the second-degree murder trial against Zimmerman, the neighborhood-watch volunteer who fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., last year. Zimmerman, 29, has pleaded not guilty and claims he fired in self-defense.

Advertisement

Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday morning. The jurors and four alternates will be sequestered during the trial, which is expected to last as long as four weeks. The judge still must decide whether to admit the testimony of state experts about a 911 recording, a critical piece of evidence that captured the sounds of screams followed by the fatal gunshot.

For such a racially charged case, the selection of a nearly all-white jury is certain to provoke rich debate. The altercation arose after Zimmerman, who is half-white and half-Hispanic, spotted the African-American teen in his gated community and decided the boy looked "like he's up to no good."

Five of the jurors are white, and one is Hispanic. Multiple black potential jurors were questioned, and they all said they hadn't formed an opinion about Zimmerman's guilt or innocence. But it's no wonder that they didn't make the cut — most told the court that a majority of their relatives and friends believes Zimmerman is guilty.

Advertisement

The last black person struck from the jury came at the request of defense attorney Mark O'Mara, who said the woman failed to disclose that the church where she works had publicly expressed support for Trayvon and his family. He said the church's pastor wrote an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel that was "very pro-Trayvon Martin" and preached a sermon to the same effect.

"It is a very inflamed view of the evidence," O'Mara told the judge. "The concern that I have is [the potential juror] … has not been straightforward" about "the influence that she was under."

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity on the jury poses challenges for both sides. But the greater difficulty may lie with the prosecution, which will try to convince jurors to see a young black male as the victim of profiling by a vigilante. (The judge has banned the prosecution from saying "racial profiling.")

The absence of male jurors could have a greater bearing. The all-female jury is "unique in a case like this," Florida defense attorney and former prosecutor Elizabeth Parker told The Root. "If I was a defense lawyer, I'd be really concerned right now."

Five of the six jurors are mothers, who could relate more with Trayvon's parents than with the boy's killer.

"Women are more emotional than men, and that could benefit the prosecution in this case," Parker said. "Trayvon Martin's mother and father will be sitting in the courtroom, and these jurors will see them every day, knowing that their son was shot and killed, knowing that the decision rests in their hands."

Advertisement

Two of the jurors have said they have owned guns and that their husbands currently own guns. And two jurors disclosed that they had been arrested in the past, with one saying she was treated "fairly" by police.

The defense argues that Trayvon violently attacked Zimmerman, causing Zimmerman to fire out of fear for his life. The prosecution contends that Zimmerman was the aggressor after pursuing Trayvon, starting when he exited his vehicle against the advice of the 911 dispatcher and followed on foot as Trayvon walked through the subdivision.

Despite the judge's instructions to base their verdict solely on the evidence presented at trial, jurors naturally draw on their own life experiences, too. It's a certainty that jurors will imagine being both Trayvon and Zimmerman in that altercation and think about how they would have behaved.

Advertisement

Zimmerman's decision to leave his vehicle could make a jury of women less inclined to see him as the victim, Parker said. That's because the "natural instinct" of most women "isn't to confront a situation like this head-on," she said. "Our natural instinct is to turn and run."

Could such thinking prevent jurors from believing Zimmerman felt mortal fear on that night?

"I have a gun in my house. It's for protection," Parker said. "But if I saw somebody shady in my neighborhood, I would never in a million years go confront them."

Advertisement

Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.

Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.