I don’t begrudge people who profit from personal life experiences. There’s often something we can learn from other people’s traumas.
Yet there was something upsetting about the swift actions by one juror in the trial of George Zimmerman, who was found innocent of all charges stemming from the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
For now, we know this person only by her court designation, B37. She was the first juror to grant an interview, sitting down with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in a session that aired the Monday and Tuesday after the verdict. The Florida mother of two stayed in the shadows, opting to remain anonymous.
When Cooper asked Juror B37 why she agreed to speak out, she said, “I want people to know that we put everything into everything to get this verdict.”
“Did you realize how big this trial had become?” Cooper asked.
“I had no clue, no clue whatsoever,” the juror answered.
But look how quickly she and her husband moved to hire a literary agent. The verdict was Saturday. Makes me question her motives. How could she not see the media crowded into the Florida courtroom?
She signed with Sharlene Martin, an agent for other high-profile people involved in controversial court cases. In interviews, Martin said the juror’s book would be about “the commitment it takes to serve and be sequestered on a jury in a highly publicized murder trial.”
I don’t buy that, and neither did many others. As quickly as this deal was made, the public took to social media to voice their outrage at someone — well, other than the lawyers — making money from this tragic case.
There was great indignation on Twitter about the deal — and congratulations when it was canceled. A petition drive on Change.org drew more than 1,300 signatures.
Martin quickly dropped the couple as clients. “I believe I made a grave error in judgment in wanting to represent this story,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Los Angeles Times.
Later, in a statement, Martin said: “After careful consideration regarding the proposed book project with Zimmerman Juror B37, I have decided to rescind my offer of representation in the exploration of a book.”
After the agent backed out, dozens of people tweeted their gratitude. Nothing like a social media smack-down to get you to rethink your actions and put your greed in perspective.
“I realize it was necessary for our jury to be sequestered in order to [protect] our verdict from unfair outside influence, but that isolation shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case,” Juror B37 said in a statement. “The potential book was always intended to be a respectful observation of the trial from my and my husband’s perspectives solely and it was to be an observation that our ‘system’ of justice can get so complicated that it creates a conflict with our ‘spirit’ of justice. Now that I am returned to my family and to society in general, I have realized that the best direction for me to go is away from writing any sort of book and return instead to my life as it was before I was called to sit on this jury.”
She should have followed the lead of her fellow jurors who seem to have a better understanding of what this trial meant to people involved.
“We, the undersigned jurors, understand there is a great deal of interest in this case,” four of the jurors said in a statement following Juror B37’s CNN interview. “Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us. The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts but in the end we did what the law required us to do. We appeal to the highest standards of your profession and ask the media to respect our privacy and give us time to process what we have been through.”
I expect that many books will be written about the Zimmerman case. It’s too much of a controversial story for someone or some people not to figure out how to profit from it. That’s the way we roll in our society. Unfortunately, not much escapes exploitation.
Readers can write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.