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Zimmerman jurors passed time with manicures, movies and bowling

Judge Debra Nelson speaks to the jury before they continued deliberating in Sanford, Florida July 13, 2013 during the trial of George Zimmer
Judge Debra Nelson speaks to the jury before they continued deliberating in Sanford, Florida July 13, 2013 during the trial of George Zimmer

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Sequestered jurors locked away from the rest of the world during George Zimmerman's three-week murder trial in Florida fended off cabin fever with manicures, movies and mall shopping.

Under the round-the-clock watch of the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, the sequestered jury of six women who listened to long days of testimony in the highly charged case blew off steam with an occasional side trip.

The jury found Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that captivated the U.S. public and triggered lengthy discussions about race, guns and self-defense laws.

There was the all-day excursion to the historic town of St. Augustine, where jurors gawked inside Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. They knocked down pins at a bowling alley, perused merchandise at the Daytona Beach mall and munched popcorn watching two court-approved movies: "World War Z" and "The Lone Ranger."

"I think people have to understand that you (sequestered jurors) are under 24-hour, seven-day-a-week jail. I don't know how else to describe it," said Maryanne Morse, the Seminole County Clerk of Courts whose office provides jurors for trials.

"At some point, to not be stir crazy and get on each other's nerves, you have to take them somewhere and give them some entertainment," Morse said.

The jurors stayed in private rooms at a 3-star Marriott hotel a short drive from the courthouse in Sanford, Florida.

The cost of sequestering them for 22 days, and for the four alternate jurors who spent a portion of that time incommunicado, totaled approximately $33,000, according to a tally revealed on Wednesday by the sheriff's office.

Taxpayers footed the bill, including $350 for side trips, although jurors were responsible for personal expenses, such as manicures, pedicures and haircuts. They received their $30-a-day jury pay in cash every week, Morse said.

Jury sequestration is rare but typically comes into play in high-profile trials awash in media coverage. Zimmerman jurors were allowed visits from family and friends on weekends, only after signing an agreement to not discuss the case or tell anyone about the visit.

Their hotel rooms were stripped of televisions, radios and all electronics and they were allowed their cell phones only once a day to retrieve voicemails and make phone calls in the presence of a sheriff's deputy, Morse said.

(Editing by Tom Brown, Barbara Goldberg and Lisa Shumaker)

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