George Zimmerman appears amused during a lighter moment as his defense… (Pool / Getty Images )
A jury of six women will decide the fate of George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who says he shot an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in self-defense during a confrontation in Florida last year.
Opening statements were scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday in a case that galvanized protests by civil rights leaders across the nation.
The defense on Thursday morning questioned the prospective jurors as lawyers for Zimmerman and the state whittled down the pool to six jurors and four alternates.
PHOTOS: The controversial case in pictures
Judge Debra S. Nelson then turned to Zimmerman, who has been in the courtroom in Sanford, Fla., since jury selection began June 10.
“Is this jury panel acceptable to you, sir?” Nelson asked.
“Yes, your honor,” replied Zimmerman, wearing a dark-blue suit and striped tie.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Martin on the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012. Martin, 17, was returning from a convenience store carrying candy and iced tea when he and Zimmerman had their confrontation in a gated community in Sanford.
GRAPHIC: Who's who in the Trayvon Martin case
Zimmerman has maintained that he acted in self-defense and has apologized to the Martin family for the shooting.
Zimmerman was released that night without being charged. But after weeks of protests across the nation, a special prosecutor was appointed and charged Zimmerman on April 11 with second-degree murder.
Race has been one of the issues in the case, with the prosecution maintaining that Zimmerman profiled Martin because the teenager was African American. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Five of the women chosen for the jury are white; the sixth is a minority. The judge earlier ruled that the names of jurors would be withheld and their faces hidden from cameras in the courtroom to protect their privacy.
The jury will be sequestered throughout the trial, which is expected to last two to four weeks.
The jury selection has been grueling, with lawyers using questionnaires and live interrogation to bring a pool of hundreds of possible jurors down to the final group of 40.
Judge Nelson heaped praise on the jurors who were not chosen.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much we all here in this room appreciate your patience during this last week and a half. You have been wonderful. You have been patient. You have been cooperative,” she said.
Nelson then added: “You don’t have to listen to another instruction from me. You are free to go."
She also said they were free to talk to anyone they wanted. “But you don’t have to,” she said.
The prosecution got to question the pool of 40 on Wednesday and defense attorney Mark O'Mara got his chance Thursday. Both sides probed for attitudes on race and the use of guns.
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