By Jeff Weiner and Rene Stutzman, Staff Writers
4:06 pm, April 3, 2014
The names of the six-member jury panel that acquitted George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin have been made public for the first time, after a new court order, records show.
Circuit Judge Debra Nelson, who had previously ordered the jurors' identifying information be kept confidential, granted access to the names in a ruling March 21.
Zimmerman's defense asked the judge in June to keep the names secret until six months after the verdict. The judge set no timeline then, but noted in her new order they have been withheld more than eight months.
Attempts to reach the jurors by phone and in-person Thursday were unsuccessful.
In Florida, the names of jurors are typically public and are announced and used by the judge and attorneys during jury selection.
Nelson's order follows an inquiry last month by the Sentinel.
In a letter, Sentinel attorneys asked Nelson for a specific ruling on how long she planned to maintain the jurors' anonymity, noting it was already "well past the six month 'cooling off' period requested by the defense."
The defense, in its motion, argued a delay was needed beyond the trial to allow "for any community passions to cool."
The Sentinel and other media outlets opposed that delay.
On July 13, Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder in Trayvon's death. The Feb. 26, 2012, shooting in Sanford renewed national debate on a range of issues, including profiling and self-defense.
The not-guilty verdict sparked protests across the country.
Prosecutors alleged Zimmerman profiled, pursued and killed the unarmed Miami Gardens teenager. Zimmerman, now 30, said he fired in self-defense while being pummeled by Trayvon during an unprovoked attack.