June 10, 2013

George Zimmerman’s trial for murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin began Monday in Sanford, Fla., with jury selection.

• The Orlando Sentinel has a Twitter account for the trial, and it’s a good follow; it aggregates tweets from journalists and others. The Sentinel, like other outlets including The Huffington Post, are running live coverage from the trial.


• Sanford’s Seminole County Courthouse “will become the center of the media universe,” Tampa Bay Times media critic (and Poynter.org contributor) Eric Deggans writes. HLN executive Scot Safon tells him the network “expect[s] to see elevated audiences.” Still for all the journalists who may show, Deggans writes, the pack is smaller than for other celebrated trials: “Between 200 to 300 journalists may show; half the size of the Casey Anthony trial contingent and less than 20 percent of reporters who showed for 1994’s O.J. Simpson trial.”

• Race will likely inform every moment of the trial. “Lawyers will select six jurors plus four alternates from a pool of 500 from Seminole County, seeking citizens who can be fair and impartial despite the vast publicity surrounding the killing of the black teen,” David Ovalle writes in the Miami Herald. “Add the racial plot lines woven into Trayvon’s case, which will be tried in a Central Florida county that is mostly white, and selecting a jury won’t be easy.”

Florida attorney Jose Baez — who helped win an acquittal for Anthony — tells Ovalle that Judge Debra Nelson “will likely attempt to ‘rehabilitate’ jurors who may have been exposed to details of the case, making sure they can be impartial and consider the facts.”

Another undercurrent: Zimmerman’s own race. The tortured history of news organizations trying to identify him by his background is still on display Monday. (Deggans wrote about Zimmerman’s race, too, in an essay for Poynter earlier this year.) The Herald calls him “half-Hispanic.” The Sentinel calls him “a light-skinned Hispanic.” AP says Zimmerman “identifies himself as Hispanic.”

A preview of the trial published Sunday in The New York Times does not identify Zimmerman by race. The Times called Zimmerman a “white Hispanic” last March but then began referring to him as simply “Hispanic,” Times standards editor Phil Corbett told Erik Wemple. “Eventually we decided that simply calling him Hispanic was probably clear enough,” Corbett said.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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