Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Jury Was Ignorant

"I think all of us thought race did not play a role," the juror said . "We never had that discussion."
               --Juror B37 in her first public comments since the trial.

The night of the verdict I said that the jury did its job responsibly under the constraints of Florida law. I didn't really have any evidence of that. I just desperately wanted it to be true. We now know it to be false.

If juror B37's description is an accurate accounting of what happened in that jury room, this is unconscionable. Had their been jurors of more diverse backgrounds in that room, at least the discussion could have occurred. The exclusion of Black jury members was a grave injustice. People claiming it is not about race would do well to think about why the defense worked so hard and managed to strike every potential Black jury member from the final jury.

Juror B37 also constructed a narrative of the one blank part in that evening's events for which we only have Zimmerman's testimony. How did the fight start?
"I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn't have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn't going to let him scare him ... and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him," she said.
It is disturbing that a member of the jury embraced this narrative. If we just take the evidence presented from both sides, we know that Zimmerman followed Martin, first in his truck and then on foot. We know that Trayvon was scared. We know that a fight started and Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman, apparently winning the fight. What we don't have any evidence for from either side is how the fight actually started.

Even as juror B37 says race had nothing to do with it, she embraces a concocted story that absolutely depends on it. Based on the evidence presented by both sides immediately before and after the fight, Ockham's Razor would indicate that Zimmerman confronted Martin who, fearing for his life, fought hard and was winning. But Zimmerman says he had lost sight of Martin, and was suddenly and viciously attacked from behind. A scared teenager running from an armed man doubled back, sneaked up on him from behind, and attacked. In the mind of Juror B37, that implausible tale was rendered reasonable by the fact of Trayvon's blackness.

I had thought the jury rendered a not guilty verdict because of the severe restraints Florida's unjust laws put them under. But this makes it seem that they actually had sympathy for Zimmerman and did not seriously question their own implicit racism. Sigh.

It does raise the question of what a responsible jury would have done. I could still see a not guilty verdict based on the extraordinary instructions written to the jury. But I suppose the right thing to do in that case would be to practice some sort of civil disobedience and say that as a juror you refuse to base your decision on an unjust law. I don't know.

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