Observers wondering about the jury that decided Saturday to acquit George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin last year have relied on the public comments of one woman, known as Juror B37:
Juror B37, a middle-aged white resident of Seminole County and the mother of two adult children, appeared on TV as a silhouette, hungry enough for publicity to sit across from Anderson Cooper but cautious enough to demand the anonymity afforded by CNN and the court — pending a yet-to-be-scheduled hearing on the release of jurors’ identities to the public.
The public has tried to glean meaning from what she told Cooper — that Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place,” that things “just went terribly wrong” — and everyone from pundits to Twitter trolls have condemned her statements as misbegotten or racist. (Four other jurors emphasized Tuesday that B37 did not reflect their views.) And in the visceral reaction to one juror speaking out, it’s possible to feel the tension in the American system of trial by jury: People want juries to do so much more than they are empowered or supposed to do. . . .
Tall and slender, with long brown hair, Juror B37 watched the trial from the front row of the jury box, just steps from Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. B37 usually stared straight ahead, taking in the motions of the trial but little of the surrounding spectacle. She was serious, focused, intense. While lawyers made their closing arguments, other jurors took notes furiously, but B37 seldom jotted down a word. Some in the courtroom speculated that she’d already made up her mind by that point.
Her willingness to speak on national television, even after expressing a stand-offishness before opening arguments, isn’t a surprise to Green.
“These jurors have been through a lot, emotionally and physically — long, hard days listening to a lot of evidence — and they haven’t been able to talk about it to friends or family or even their fellow jurors,” Green says. “At the end of this process, the ability to talk to somebody is therapeutic.”
B37 seemed both certain and confused during her CNN interview Monday, at one point saying that the jury “knew exactly what happened,” yet adding 30 seconds later that “I don’t think anybody knows” what really happened.
Cooper asked her why she was speaking out.
“I want people to know that we put everything into everything to get this verdict,” she said, her voice breaking again.
“We thought about it for hours and cried over it afterwards,” she continued. “I don’t think any of us could ever do anything like that ever again.”
Federal prosecutors have asked for the public’s views on whether they should bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Attorney General Eric Holder discussed the case Tuesday, describing his own experiences as a victim of racial profiling. Melinda Henneberger questions Holder’s apparent analogy between Zimmerman and a law enforcement officer:
“Years ago,” he said, “some of these same issues drove my father to sit down with me to have a conversation — which is no doubt familiar to many of you — about how, as a young black man, I should interact with the police, what to say and how to conduct myself if I was ever stopped or confronted in a way that I thought was unwarranted. Now I’m sure my father felt certain at that time that my parents’ generation would be the last that had to worry about such things for their children.”
It wasn’t, of course. And unfortunately, Holder has had plenty of chances to put his father’s advice to use:
“The news of Trayvon Martin’s death last year, and the discussions that have taken place since then, reminded me of my father’s words so many years ago, and they brought me back to a number of experiences I had as a young man, when I was pulled over twice and my car searched on the New Jersey Turnpike when I’m sure I wasn’t speeding, or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to a catch a movie, at night in Georgetown, in Washington, D.C. I was, at the time of that last incident, a federal prosecutor.”
“So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”
George Zimmerman is not a cop, though he wanted to be. Holder’s father presumably told him to be all kinds of deferential with law enforcement officers. But does that advice also apply to a “creepy” guy running around armed and dangerous?
Kathleen Parker blames Zimmerman for Martin’s death:
One thing we can all agree upon without much strain is that this incident — this senseless, heartbreaking death — never should have happened. Zimmerman, who began acting as a watchman in 2004 and had made more than 40 calls to authorities over the years, never should have left his car once he notified police, who told him to stay put.
We also can surmise that Zimmerman would not have followed Martin if Zimmerman weren’t carrying a gun. If Martin were perceived as dangerous, wouldn’t an unarmed individual keep his distance until police arrived?
Thus, we conclude that Zimmerman’s actions led to the confrontation that ultimately resulted in a fight that ended with the fatal shooting.
It never should have happened. And it didn’t have to.
The jury obviously felt that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, or, at least, that the state failed to prove otherwise. It must have been a terrible conclusion to reach because, no matter the legal definitions that guided them, it seems impossible that someone’s young son, guilty of nothing, should die while his killer walks. Adages become such for a reason: The law is an ass.
By the definitions, instructions and evidence — in other words, by the book — the jurors ruled as they could and justice feels ill-served.
So, yes, we understand how everyone feels. But feelings are like weather — they come and go and shift with time. Part of maturity — and fundamental to civilization — is learning to process feelings through thought, reflection and, in this case, debate.
For past coverage of the verdict, continue reading here.