The jury in the George Zimmerman trial dined at Outback Steakhouse and visited the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum as part of the roughly $33,000 in sequester expenses spent by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
The office gave examples of some of the expenditures on its website Wednesday, including a bowling night and trips to the movies to see the “The Lone Ranger” and “World War Z” for the Zimmerman jury during their 22-night sequester for the Florida murder case.
The all-female jury of six reached a not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial Friday, believing that Florida state prosecutors did not make their case that the 29-year-old community watchman murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The decision deeply divided the country and sparked protests among those who believed justice for Trayvon was not served.
The six jurors stayed at the Lake Mary, Fla., Marriott, according to the sheriff’s office. The office took measures to ensure that the jurors abided by Florida Circuit Judge Debra Nelson’s instructions not to discuss the case with anyone or to research the Trayvon shooting or trial media coverage on the Internet.
“During the sequestration, jurors had individual rooms and convened regularly in a suite for meals and to socialize. Jurors watched television and movies, exercised at the hotel fitness center, and spent weekends being visited by family and friends,” the office said. “Jurors could also request visits from members of the religious community. Anyone visiting members of the jury was asked to sign an agreement indicating they would not discuss the case with the jury member or disclose any information to outside parties about the details of their visit.”
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Most of the dinners were provided to the jurors at the hotel, although the six women also dined out at Outback Steakhouse in Sanford and Amigo’s, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Altamonte Springs, Fla., about a 15-minute drive from their hotel.
“Lunches typically took place at the courthouse, with lunch brought in from area restaurants. The group went out for lunch twice, both times to Senior Tequila’s in Winter Springs,” the sheriff’s office said.
Besides television at the hotel, the jurors had other forms of entertainment, including two trips to the movies, shopping and bowling.
“Jurors also enjoyed several evening and weekend excursions to include bowling, shopping at the Volusia Mall, a day and dinner in St. Augustine (to include a visit to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum), manicures and pedicures, and watching fireworks on the Fourth of July,” the office said. “Jurors also went to the movies to see ‘World War Z’ and ‘The Lone Ranger.’ All movies viewed were preapproved by the court.”
The jurors had limited access to their cell phones. When they did, they were accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy. The deputies also screened communication to ensure that the jurors were abiding by Nelson’s rules.
“All television, Internet use, reading materials, mail and phone calls were screened, monitored and logged by deputies to ensure jurors were not exposed to any trial information or content related to the criminal justice system,” the office said. “Jurors were permitted to receive their cell phones once per day to check voicemails and make telephone calls in the presence of a deputy.”
The sheriff’s office said it did not have the exact costs of the sequestration of the jurors but estimated that figure to be around $33,000. That includes $1,000 a day in hotel costs, $365 a day for meals and $350 total for excursions.
The sequester costs for the jury were about 10 times lower than the amount spent on overtime for deputies relating to the protection of the jurors as well as “equipment” and “other trial-related expenses.” The sheriff’s office pegged that figure at about $320,000.