The media portrayal of the George Zimmerman trial had many misconceptions, which often happens in publicized high profile cases that are on television or are covered extensively by the press. This case also demonstrates the effect the media has on the jury selection process and the damaging effect of using stereotypes during the jury selection process.

A news reporter asked one of the trial team members how they were able to select a jury of women—five whites and one Latina. The person interviewed corrected the reporter by saying that they didn’t get to pick the jurors they wanted during jury selection—it was actually a process of de-selecting the jurors each side does not want in the case. Either way, understanding the types of jurors that are good and bad for your case is critical to the effective use of the strikes or peremptory challenges during the selection process.

The Zimmerman case is a great example of the effect the media can have on the jury selection process and the overall case. When there is strong media coverage on a case the public forms opinions and many times those opinions disqualify jurors from being fair and impartial on the case. It is likely that the main reason there were no African American jurors on the Zimmerman case is that when they were asked during voir dire if they had seen the media coverage and whether they had formed opinions on the case most of the minority jurors said they had seen the coverage and had formed opinions on the case, thus disqualifying them from jury service. That became evident by the defense lawyer’s poorly used knock-knock joke. Remember? “Knock-knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? You’re on the jury!” It was bashed in the media, but it pointed out that both sides and likely the court wanted jurors who had not seen the media coverage and/or formed any opinions. Thus, the potential pool of jurors was skewed to non-black candidates as jurors and the result was a jury composed of white and Hispanic women.

The next question that gets asked is how did they have an all female jury? The answer is partly explained by both sides thinking they wanted the same types of jurors. Clearly in this case the prosecution did not understand the types of jurors they should be keeping and striking. A jury can get stacked against one side or the other when stereotypes are used to select the types of jurors and those stereotypes are counterintuitive to the reality of those juror characteristics.

The prosecution in the Zimmerman trial thought it wanted women jurors because stereotypically women jurors tend to strongly believe and rely on the police and the investigators testimony, thus are typically great prosecution jurors. But if the prosecution in the Zimmerman trial had done jury research, they would have learned that women jurors were going to be the worst jurors for its case because of the testimony that the investigating officers gave during depositions and at trial. The fact that the investigating officers’ testimony seemed to support George Zimmerman’s case was devastating and obviously swayed that jury into reasonable doubt.