The woman known as Juror B37, one of the six who acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin on Saturday, might not have the opportunity to write a book about her experience in the case after her literary agent rescinded her offer to represent her. Zimmerman claimed he shot and killed Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense. The case has exacerbated racial tensions nationwide, which seems to have been a factor in the literary agent’s decision:
What happened between the quick launch and the quick cancellation? The Internet, apparently. BuzzFeed and Uproxx are crediting Twitter user @MoreandAgain for marshaling a successful online campaign against the book by leveraging the mass fury on social media – where users were appalled that anyone would seek to profit off the trial — and by gathering more than 1,000 virtual signatures for a petition on Change.org, where the user is listed as Genie Lauren of New York.
Neither Juror B37 nor Sharlene Martin, the literary agent, cited the online campaign as the reason for aborting the project, but the juror’s statement hinted that her sequestering during trial kept her unaware of the broader sentiment toward the case.
The “isolation shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case,” Juror B37 said in the statement, released through Martin on Twitter at 1 a.m. EST Tuesday. That was mere hours after she was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN, where she was granted her anonymity.
Meanwhile, protests and disturbances continue around the country. Nine people were arrested in Oakland, Calif. Monday night:
Newspapers report that a waiter guarding windows at a restaurant was hit in the face with a hammer late Monday night, and protesters threw fireworks at police in riot gear. Police deployed flash-bang grenades.
Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson says the arrests were for crimes including assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism.
The Oakland Tribune reports that the waiter’s co-workers were helping him ice his head as they waited for an ambulance.
Witnesses told the newspaper that a protester was also injured after being struck by a police projectile. Police did not immediately respond to a request to confirm or deny that report.
More chaos was reported in Los Angeles. The case has drawn comparisons to others in which blacks have been the victims of violence:
A Southern jury — when it comes to race and the perception that a black person has been wrongly accused or harmed — operates under the wide, whispering shadow of history. And there exists a roster of names and cases that has exploded onto the national scene and claimed headlines against this backdrop of race and geography: the Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, Isaac Woodward, Medgar Evers, the four girls killed in the Alabama bombing.
After the Zimmerman verdict, civil rights activists have clamored for charges of federal civil rights violations. President Obama referred to Martin’s death as “a tragedy.” On Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. called the teenager’s death “unnecessary” and said the Justice Department would continue its investigation of the shooting.
The case, fairly or not, has reignited passions about the South and Southern juries when it comes to justice for blacks. It is a story line so often mentioned that it is now wedded to popular culture, in literature — the works of Eudora Welty, William Faulkner and Ralph Ellison — as well as in movies. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman is convicted despite the defense waged by his heroic white attorney. FBI agents in “Mississippi Burning” seek justice for three voting- rights activists. . .
Clifford Alexander, who is black, was a young lawyer when he worked in the White House under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He well remembers discussions about judges and juries in Southern courtrooms in those days. And he understands why conversations reverted to such reflections in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict. “The clear reason why Zimmerman had the audacity to approach this child was that he saw the color of his skin as a threat,” he says.
He says it was particularly galling that after Martin was killed, there was no immediate arrest, which only hardened sentiments about Southern law enforcement. “We all know Zimmerman wasn’t arrested until later. And you had a dead young man right there!” he says.
Alexander, who went on to head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said the Zimmerman verdict and other actions by law enforcement, such as New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy, leave blacks with impressions of unfair treatment.
“Jurors in the past often were not treating black life like they would a white life. There are still, today, too many differentials in treatment,” he said. “We have been, as a society — and often as a government — unable to describe the racism of certain things.”
It was Welty, a white writer from the South, who sought in 1963 to describe racism in a short story, “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” Revered as one of this country’s most gifted writers, she did not regularly write about race and crime in her native South. But Evers’s killing so affected her that she sat down at her typewriter and, according to legend, wrote the five-page story in one day. Her story was a fictionalized portrait of the night Evers was murdered in the driveway of his Jackson, Miss., home. The narrator is the gunman. “Something darker than him, like the wings of a bird, spread on his back and pulled him down. He climbed up once, like a man under bad claws, and like just blood could weigh a ton he walked with it on his back to better light. Didn’t get no further than his door. And fell to stay.”
Evers’s real-life killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was tried twice in 1964, each time resulting in hung juries. Thirty years later, in 1994, after new evidence was uncovered, a jury of eight blacks and four whites found him guilty of first-degree murder.
Opinion writer Eugene Robinson argues that Zimmerman’s acquittal was a failure of justice:
Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.
George Zimmerman’s acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin’s body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.
Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman’s.
To me, and to many who watched the trial, the fact that Zimmerman recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter. The six women on the jury disagreed.
Those jurors also knew that Martin, at the time of his death, was just three weeks past his 17th birthday. But black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace. . .
If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.
We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.
And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?
For past coverage of the trial, continue reading here.