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Media, spectators starting to flood Sanford

7:25 AM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
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SANFORD, Fla. -- The George Zimmerman murder trial has ignited a firestorm of emotion over the past year.

Both sides of the courtroom are expected to have people at the trial supporting them.
Many members of the national and international media are also in Sanford to cover the historic case.

The town has a population of 54,000 people, but expect hundreds, if not thousands, more to arrive once the trial begins.

Most of the media is concentrated in the parking lot outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center on Bush Boulevard.

Only a select few received seats inside the courtroom. The rest are relying on a camera feed from the courtroom that can be shared among all the outlets.

To accommodate the activity, barricades and cones have been set up outside the courthouse.

Extra signage is also posted to let people know about possible traffic delays and parking locations.

Even a portable cell phone tower is installed outside to handle the increase in cell phone and Internet usage in the area.

Seminole County installed additional security cameras and checkpoints inside the courthouse as a safety precaution.

Sanford city officials have also stepped up police patrols on bikes and on foot.

The trial is a major test for the city's new chief, Cecil Smith, who took over after the last chief was let go in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting investigation.

Smith told First Coast News plans for the trial have been in the works for months.

The hope is to avoid the emotional and sometimes disorderly firestorm that unfolded after the teen's death last year.

"We're working for a hurricane. We know that it was going to happen. We have an idea of what might take place. So we're building it as a hurricane instead of last year, it came in like a tornado, and everyone was a little bit more so overwhelmed," Smith said.

Zimmerman goes on trial Monday morning and has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

He claims self-defense in Martin's death.

Once the court concludes a hearing that was held over from Saturday, jury selection is expected to begin and last several weeks.

First Coast News

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