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6 Questions About Zimmerman's 6-Woman Jury

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on June 21, 2013 11:58 AM

A jury of six women has been chosen for the trial of George Zimmerman, who's charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. So what happens next?

The group was narrowed from an initial jury pool of 211 people. Thursday's final announcement of the six jurors was the culmination of a long process of winnowing out biased and ineligible candidates, reports USA Today.

Now that these six jurors are seated, here are six questions and answers that may illuminate their future role in Zimmerman's trial:

1. Why Only Six Jurors?

The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants a right to a trial by a jury of their peers, but that number of jurors doesn't have to be 12.

The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed juries of as few as six members for major offenses. Florida doesn't require more than six in criminal cases that don't involve the death penalty.

2. Why Four Alternates?

In addition to the six jurors, there are two men and two women serving as alternate jurors, reports USA Today.

These jurors will hear the trial alongside the other six regular jurors, but will not vote on a verdict unless asked to fill in for an excused juror.

3. When Can a Juror Be Excused?

Although Zimmerman's trial judge attempted to prevent any jurors from leaving during the trial by asking about their medical needs and schedules during voir dire, it is always possible for a juror to be excused mid-trial.

Jurors can also be excused for misconduct, which can happen if a juror starts speaking to the public about the case or shows signs of being biased.

4. Can Jurors Question Witnesses?

Questioning witnesses was an option for jurors in the Jodi Arias trial in Arizona, and the same may be true for the Zimmerman jury in Florida.

Florida courts adopted new laws in the last five years, allowing civil jurors to ask questions of witnesses. But criminal jurors may only do so if the judge allows it, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

5. What Is Sequestration?

The Zimmerman jury is going to be sequestered for the duration of the trial, meaning that the six regular jurors and four alternates will be allowed very little outside contact. They'll also be barred from using social media.

That's not uncommon, as sequestration typically involves jurors spending their free time in a hotel room next to the courthouse, with occasional breaks for fresh air.

6. What to Expect From an All-Female Jury?

Jurors are often scrutinized based on their race, gender, and political leanings, so having an all-female jury has led to a flurry of speculation about the jury's predispositions.

One Florida criminal defense attorney opined to USA Today that an all-female jury may not appreciate Zimmerman's self-defense claim, citing women's "gentler" and non-confrontational nature. But Zimmerman himself told the judge he found the jury's composition to be acceptable.

Opening statements in George Zimmerman's murder trial are expected to begin Monday.

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