16 Jul 2013

Juror in Zimmerman trial speaks out for first time

One of the six women on the jury that acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering the black teenager Trayvon Martin speaks out for the first time.

Trayvon Martin protestors

She is a mother of two who has more pets than she can remember, gets excited about wild birds, and does not watch the news, let alone read a paper. This is Juror B37, one of the six who found George Zimmerman not guilty in the murder case that has sent shock waves through America, sparking protests across the country.

Now the juror has spoken out for the first time, telling Anderson Cooper’s 360 about the case, the deliberations, and what led the jury to make the decision they did.

Despite the fact that the fatal shooting of an unarmed 17-year-old by a Hispanic neighbourhood watch volunteer plunged the entire country into an emotionally charged discussion about race, B37 seemed unaware.

I thought all of us did not think race played a role. Juror B37

“I thought all of us did not think race played a role,” she said, explaining that Zimmerman would have “profiled anybody who came in and acted strange” because he was “overeager to help” his neighbours.

As for Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which expressly permits anyone who feels their own life is threatened to use lethal force to defend themselves, she is similarly sanguine. “It’s everyone’s right to carry a gun.”

‘Both were responsible’

It appears that two of the six jurors initially believed George Zimmerman was guilty of manslaughter, while just one wanted to convict him of second degree murder. B37 is clear in her views, believing things changed when Trayvon Martin turned and attacked Zimmerman.

“It’s a tragedy that this happened, but it happened,” she said. “And I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into. I think both of them could have walked away. It just didn’t happen.”

Everyone cried, she told the programme, when they finally reached their verdict. “It was just hard, thinking that somebody lost their life, and there’s nothing else that could be done about it.”

But yet more has emerged about Juror B37 in the form of a video, via Gawker, showing the process known as voir dire – the questioning in court during her selection as a member of the jury.

Apart from her passion for all kinds of animals, she has a definite dislike: the media. “It’s skewed one way or the other,” and admits she doesn’t listen to the radio or read news on the internet.

NBC’s morning show, Today, is her only source of information. And as for newspapers: “The only time I see ’em is when I’m putting them down on the floor.” She thought there had been riots after the original shooting happened – even though there weren’t.

Eccentric and unpredictable?

Slate’s legal expert Dahlia Lithwick sought out a few attorneys to find out if they would have objected to someone with her somewhat idiosyncratic views on such an important jury.

Former federal prosecutor, and defence lawyer Gail Bashers-Krug is sceptical: “She strikes me as eccentric and unpredictable. I never, ever want eccentric, unpredictable people on a jury.”

Others suggested that the juror was merely reflecting the views of millions of animal-loving Americans who distrust the media and have only a sketchy grasp of the news. Don’t judge the jury, perhaps.

In any case, the publicity seems to have put B37 off her plans to write a book about her experiences with her attorney husband. First her literary agent, Sharlene Martin, announced on Twitter that after careful consideration, “I have decided to rescind my offer of representation.”

Next came a statement from the juror herself, posted on the site.

And the statement continues: “Now that I am returned to my family and to society in general, I have realised that the best direction for me is to go 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”.

Noteriety, it seems, can be a double-edged sword.

Felicity Spector writes about US affairs for Channel 4 News