Can Zimmerman Get A Fair Trial?

10:52 PM, Apr 11, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - When accused murderer George Zimmerman's new defense lawyer met with reporters Wednesday, after Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of a Florida teenager, the lawyer said " he's concerned about getting a fair trial."

In a case that has dominated headlines for a month and a half, is it possible to find jurors who either don't know about the case or who can be fair despite what they thin they already know?

"The answer is yes but it's not going to be easy. They are going to have to very carefully screen jurors. Almost every juror that they are going to talk to has heard about the case, knows something about that case, but that doesn't mean they're biased.

"What they need to explore is: does the juror have an open mind" Is the juror willing to hear the evidence and decide the case based on the evidence," said Barry Pollack of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

9News Now posed the question to veteran criminal defense lawyer James Shalleck: " In your view is it difficult or easy to find a jury that can give this gentleman a fair trial?"

"You never know. That's the biggest question mark. Is the juror being truthful that they can be fair even though they know about the case? You never know if a juror is saying they can be fair because they would be embarrassed to say they can't be fair, or are they saying they can be fair because they want to be on the jury for some reason? You never really know. It's one of the hardest things in criminal justice, and the most important," Shalleck said.

What kinds of questions will potential jurors be asked to determine if they can be fair?

"Well, there is a racial issue in this case that you can't discount and its uncomfortable to talk about, but there is a racial component here.

"Has someone been involved in a homeowners' association? There are a lot of components specific to this case that a juror might have issues about: race, do they live in a gated community with security? Do they have a child Travon's age? So, a lot of the specifics here will be telling," Shalleck told 9News Now.

"The key in the case like this is to have an excellent judge. They've got to get a presiding judge that has the temperament, the insight, and the experience, that has dealt with thousands and thousands of jurors so at the very least he can try and syphon off those who he feels are not being candid. You really need an excellent judge in a case like this. He's the gatekeeper," Shalleck said.

Given the tensions in Florida, is a change of venue likely?

"This is a case that people have heard of everywhere and people are going to have opinions everywhere, but they might not have the depth of feelings elsewhere, and they might not have the same concerns about what their friends, what their neighbors, what their colleagues are going to think as they might if they're living right in the eye of the storm," Pollack said.

"I think everybody watching ought to do the same thing that we are asking the jurors to do. There is a lot of information out there, some of it is extremely troubling.

"But, let's reserve judgement. Let's see what the facts are. At the end of the day if the facts warrant conviction, then he ought to be convicted but, conversely, if they don't, then he ought to be acquitted. We need to find out exactly what the facts are and hopefully all of us will learn something from that process," Pollack said.

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