June, 28 2017

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Jury Selection begins for Guards charged in Teen's Death

Chanting protesters carrying photographs of a slain teenager greeted potential jurors outside a government center Monday, as jury selection began in the manslaughter trial of seven juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse charged with the boy's death.

The Jury Pool

Martin Lee Anderson's parents were inside a makeshift courtroom at a civic center, a venue big enough to handle the more than 1,400 Bay County residents summoned to appear for jury selection over the next few days. That is one of every 90 adults in the Florida Panhandle county.

The large pool is needed because the case has gotten so much media attention locally. If an impartial panel can't be found, the trial will be moved to another Florida county.

More than 400 people were expected to be screened Monday. In the first group of 200, only 9 did not know about the case.

Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet told attorneys he expected the initial screening to continue past 8 p.m. Monday.

"We will have to work to get through this panel," he said.

The six jurors and four alternates will decide the fate of the guards and nurse accused of aggravated manslaughter of a child in Anderson's January 2006 death.

Public Opinion about the Case

About 20 protesters stood outside the civic center and carried large posters of Anderson, who was 14 when he died. The slogans on the signs included "Justice 4 Martin." Their chants of "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now" could be heard in the second-floor courtroom.

Details about Anderson's Case

Anderson was sent to the now-closed Bay County Juvenile Boot Camp for a probation violation - he trespassed at a school after he and his cousins were charged with stealing their grandmother's car from a church parking lot.

During his first hours at the camp he became lethargic during a physical fitness test. An exercise yard videotape shows the guards using their fists and knees to repeatedly hit Anderson and take him to the ground. They then hold ammonia capsules under his nose.

The camp nurse watched and did nothing during most of the 30-minute encounter with the seven men. The teen died hours later on Jan. 6, 2006.

The original autopsy, conducted by the Bay County medical examiner, said Anderson's death was caused by natural complications of sickle cell trait, a genetic blood disorder. After an outcry from Anderson's family and the public, his body was exhumed and a second autopsy by another doctor found the guards suffocated him.

The defense will lean heavily on the first autopsy, saying it shows the guards' and nurse's actions were not to blame.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush appointed Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober to investigate and prosecute the case, citing a potential conflict of interest for local prosecutors. His team will say that the second autopsy combined with the video shows that Anderson was killed.

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