Michael Stickings over at The Reaction alerted me to the fact that we have finally heard from the last Zimmerman juror—the one who wasn’t white. Later, I got to see some of the actual interview that she did via a video from The Young Turks, that I’ve embedded at the bottom of this article.
I’m in complete agreement with Michael on this case. (We tend to agree about everything other than Latin American politics.) Given the prosecution, defense, and Florida law, an acquittal was at least a defensible outcome. But in listening to what Juror B-29 had to say, I’m inclined to tip a little more strongly towards the ruling being wrong.
There are two related parts to this. First, the argument that the juror gave for acquitting was an argument against murder, not manslaughter. Second, it is clear that this decision was all about intimidation. As lawyers know, a single confident juror can sway everyone else on the jury. In this case, I think that Juror B-37 (the one married to a lawyer who was going to write a book about it) was that person. And think about it from Juror B-29’s position: you’re on the jury with only white women who, after a short period of time are telling you that you’ve got it all wrong. That’s major peer pressure in a racially charged case with a racial divide on the jury. That would be hard to stand up to for the most confident and certain person.
Maybe my thinking is too colored by having recently watched 12 Angry Men. But I imagine it like the beginning of that film where all of the people who are certain of the kid’s guilt talk down to Henry Fonda. “Everything—every single thing that took place in that courtroom, but I mean everything—says he’s guilty.” And similar comments with the subtext, “You just don’t understand!” And in the end, they used an argument that could only be used against murder to get Juror B-29 to vote “not guilty” for manslaughter.
The truth is that I think it would be far worse if Zimmerman had been be falsely convicted. So in his particular case, acquittal is not the worst thing. The broader issue is what’s important. As Jay-Z noted, “Didn’t Trayvon have a right to stand his ground?” So that’s where this decision is troubling. And now it looks like Juror #10 (Ed Begley in the film; B-37 in the case) was the one who dominated the decision. I’m not saying that Juror B-37 is racist in the way that Ed Begley was in 12 Angry Men, but there was a clear thoughtless racism in her interview with Anderson Cooper. At very least, she seemed more interested in her book deal than in justice.
I’m glad that Juror B-29 came forward. I think we have a far better idea of what went on in that jury room. It really seems that Juror B-29 played the part of Henry Fonda (Juror #8). But if you remember the film, you’ll remember that Fonda would have folded too if it hadn’t been for Joseph Sweeney (Juror #9). So Juror B-29 should not feel bad at all. But Juror B-37 really ought to be giving some thought to her own actions.
And if you’ve had trouble with all my 12 Angry Men references, you really need to watch it again. It is a great film.