Headline Surfer, greater Daytona Beach's 24/7 internet newspaper, among 3 dozen media outlets with seating for high profile case
SANFORD -- Security will be extremely tight when jury selection gets under way this morning at the Seminole County Courthouse for George Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin -- the high profile case that galvanized the nation with gun rights advocates on one side and claims of racism on the other side since the victim was a 17-year-old black youth and an arrest wasn't immediately forthcoming leading to nationwide protests.
Not since the Casey Anthony murder trial ended in a not-guilty verdict for the mother in the killing of toddler daughter, Caylee, has Florida been waiting on such a high-profile trial.
Headline Surfer will bring the news to its readers online as it develops throughout the course of the trial, which is expected to last at least a month, if not longer.
Jury selection will be especially trying since the case is one of the most covered in modern times. The jury is to be comprised of six people who live in 18th Judicial Circuit, which comprises Seminole and Brevard counties, though most are expected to come from the greater Sanford area where the killing occurred.
Along with the choosing of six jurors, at least three alternates will be selected as well.
The judge has already ruled the prospective jurors will be identified by a pre-determined number ID instead of their real names and media pool providers -- The Orlando Sentinel for still photography and CNN's In Session with video feeds -- will not be allowed to capture their images. No photography is allowed inside the courthouse and media is barred from shooting the jurors leaving and entering the courthouse under law enforcement escort.
Headline Surfer, a media outlet of one, is the smallest of several hundred media outlets expected to converge on the courthouse grounds and is among only three dozen with a guaranteed seat for the entire trial. Headline Surfer will set up shop in adjoining courthouse room with video feed provided. The internet newspaper will still be able to interact with the parties involved during recesses.
Headline Surfer snapshot graphic / Twenty-seven media outlets have secured seating in the courtroom for the George Zimmerman murder trial. Headline Surfer is first in line for a slot should one of the other media outlets not be able to keep up the daily grind of the trial. In the meantime, the internet newspaper is guaranteed a slot in a reserve media room, complete with video feed and work station. Headline Surfer is the lone Volusia County-based media outlet covering the Zimmerman trial from the courthouse.
The internet newspaper is among only a handful of media outlets to actually interview Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, in person, which occurred inside an SUV by their legal team headed by Benjamin Crump, following a massive rally in Miami just a few weeks after the slaying near the American Airlines Arena where thousands more people were in town for the WWE's Wrestlemania that night.
Headline Surfer is one of three media organizations worldwide to win a journalism award in 2012 for its coverage of Trayvon Martin's slaying and the demonstrations that followed. The others were the Orlando Sentinel and the Huffington Post.
FAST FACTS: State of Florida vs. George Michael ZimmermanOn April 11, 2012, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26, shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, in a gated community in Sanford. State Attorney Angela Corey filed an affidavit of probable cause, alleging Zimmerman profiled and confronted Martin and shot him to death while the youth was not in the commission of a crime. In Florida, a conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If a firearm was used, as was the case here, then the mandatory minimum is 25 years in state prison. Just hours after the killing, Sanford police let Zimmerman go free, saying there was no "probable cause" to arrest him, after the neighborhood watch volunteer claimed he shot and killed the youth in self-defense while Martin was walking back to the home of his father's fiancee's after purchasing a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles from a nearby 7-Eleven. Zimmerman told police that Martin was the aggressor and photos of Zimmerman the night of the incident show him with a bloodied, broken nose amongst other injuries. The decision not to charge Zimmerman was made by Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee after consultation with Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger under Florida's so-called "Stand your Ground" defense, which allows a person not to have to retreat when their life is threatened and to use deadly force, if necessary. This led to national outrage with petitions for Zimmerman's arrest through social media, including 2.2 million signatures with Change.org. A series of protests erupted, first by 30,000 strong in Sanford, followed by even larger demonstrations in Miami, Chicago and elsewhere, that led to the subsequent leave of absence and eventual firing of Sanford PD. Chief Lee and state attorney Wolfinger's resignation from the case in favor of Gov. Scott's appointment of Corey. With minorities and others claiming institutional racism in law enforcement, pro-gun advocates also spoke out in support of the Stand Your Ground legislation. But on April 11, Zimmerman was formally charged by Corey with second degree, telling a world-wide audience through the media: "I can tell you we did not come to this decision lightly. This case is like a lot of the difficult cases we have handled for years here in our circuit. And we made this decision in the same manner. Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the state of Florida.
For the prosecution:
Bernie de la Rionda
For the defense:
For the court:
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson
She's the presiding judge in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, and the third judge since Zimmerman's case first went to court. The first two judges recused themselves over conflicts in the case.
Headline Surfer Multimedia: