Every time I have been called to the courthouse for jury duty I have been released, only a couple of times making it so far as the venire, or jury pool in a particular case, but asked few questions and informed I was not wanted. Lawyers have to explain to venire persons time and again that just because the attorneys, or one of them, feel the person would not make a "good" juror in that particular case does not mean they would not be a "good" juror in some other case. Illustrations often include such things as saying that the defendant is employed as a telephone salesperson and if the venire, like the defense lawyer, dislikes being interrupted for telephone solitications, then they, both the lawyer and the venireperson, probably would not make a "good" juror in that particular case.
Attorneys also tell the venire that they are "not trying to pry into your personal life," though they cannot honestly tell them they will not pry into their opinions. However, when they do this, lawyers find ways of framing their questions designed to coax from the potential juror their "feelings" about this or that, their "thinking on it," &c., hoping to embarrass no one but at the same time seeking a rather candid answer that reveals biases or prejudices. Wisely, in the George Zimmerman trial now entering the defense presentation in Florida, the jurors were all questioned individually outside the presence of the other members of the venire. This is a greater guarantee of honest responses, free of intimidation or peer group influences. Had I been among those on the venire, sworn to speak the truth, I probably would not have made it out of this preliminary interrogation.
When I learned that Zimmerman was planning on relying on the defense of self-defense based upon Florida's stand-your-ground law (itself very problematic for me), I thought, He's got to be kidding! That was because I had heard his 911 call with its crypto-racist remarks and his refusal to do what the dispatcher told him when Zimmerman said "Yeah" in response to the question, "You're not following him are you?" Zimmerman became the stalker and aggressor. To me, this is manslaughter at a minimum. Although I rather doubt the prosecution can hang a murder conviction on Zimmerman, the jury's failure to return a guilty verdict on the lesser included offense of manslaughter will be very troubling.
Lest it be said that because I would be reluctant to vote for a verdict of murder, I might be a "good" juror for the defense. Not so. There is another reason why I could not hope to be fair and impartial toward Mr. Zimmerman.
The Hannity interview.
Zimmerman went on Hannity, bad enough in and of itself given that jackass of a host, and told the Fox News audience that his shooting of Trayvon Martin's -- the teenager's death -- had been "God's plan."
That's right. God killed Trayvon, not George Zimmerman. But if God had a plan to kill Trayvon Martin, why did God not prevent the killing? If Zimmerman had remained in his car and obeyed the dispatcher, would that have been God's decision? Unwittingly, Zimmerman became on the Hannity show an object lesson in the truth of Epicurius's observation that God cannot possibly exist if he is anything like he is most often described -- as both good and as omnipotent. God could have kept a 17-year-old boy with a package of Skittles and a can of iced tea alive that night, but he did not. God put a gun into the hand of George Zimmerman and sent him forth to take a human life. This is the God of the Old Testament on steroids, slaying indiscriminately for reasons that cannot often if ever be described as "good."
No, I did not belong on George Zimmerman's jury. And I am glad I do not live in that county in Florida, for if I did, and if called to a venire, I would not be remotely tempted to fake an open mind in order to get on Zimmerman's jury. Nothing I have heard so far suggests to me that this defendant is a scoundrel and should be punished.
I don't know whether I would be a good juror for this. I probably would not be chosen. I have an opinion on Zimmerman, even though I would be open to the evidence. He seems to me more like he was over aggressive and too quick to judge, and took the law into his own hands, and he killed a teenager as a result.
If it boils down to thinking I knew what happened in Zimmerman's mind, I would be a bad person to pass judgement. I never know what people are thinking.
I am glad this went to trial. Even if Zimmerman is or is not consciously or subconsciously racist, it seemed to me the initial decision to blow it off without trial, was racist. If Zimmerman was black and Martin was white/Hispanic, how would that have affected the initial decision not to go to trial? What if they were both white? Both Hispanic? Both Black?
Well, the defense for Zimmerman must have done some pretty fancy dancing ... because Zimmerman has been acquitted. No 2nd degree murder, not even manslaughter, nothing. [Loren shrugs his shoulders and wonders what evidence the jury saw that he's not aware of...]
Those six women sure made a fool out of me. Of course, that's hardly anything unusual.
booklover, I have a slightly different take. As you must know, there is a disproportionate number of mostly young African-Americans in our nation's prisons. I once said "All crimes are political crimes" and even after three years in law school and 30 years in practice, I still believe it. Most of these young African-Americans are thus political prisoners. The message of the Zimmers verdict, as they would see it, says to them: You stole $500 from an auto parts store/residential home and you got 10 years in the joint. Zimmers shot a young black man and he is walking the streets (well, not quite), a free (not quite) man. Might as well return to a life of crime when I get out: they allow people to kill me when I am minding my own business and doing nothing but buying something in a convenience store and going home in a hoodie.
Somehow this seems to me like a racial version of the old "gay panic" defense. Gay panic meant a man could claim he was propositioned or sexually attacked by a gay man, went into a panic and before he knew what came over him, killed the reprehensible gay "attacker".
So these days, if a menacing lanky black teenager is walking through a neighborhood armed with a package of skittles, the emboldened and frightened neighborhood watch hero, justifiably in a panic because of the teenager's threatening hoodie, can kill him. Because "black panic" is a legitimate defense.in the minds of some, even if not spoken.
But it's not that.
In the 'gay panic' the accused claims that he attacked because of the gay issue. In this case the accused explicitly denied that. This may be an example of the opposite, a confrontation between people of different ethnicities is often assumed to be racial, whether it is or not.
Unlike the police shooting of Diallo a few years ago where a black man was shot 41 times while simply opening his wallet (and the cops walked!), a fight preceded the shooting, which may or may not have been an act of desperation.
If this were a straight up racially motivated shooting, he probably would have shot first.
We are a nation obsessed with racial motivation, and there is a tendency to see racial motivation everwhere. If you're looking for it, you're sure to find it.
The problem with "gay panic" is the same problem as WWB (Walking While Black, what Trayvon Martin was guilty of): both are not reasons, they are excuses.
It is past time the excuses were recognized for what they are.
We will never know, because no one testified as to who did what once Zimmers caught up with Martin. Who threw the first punch? Did Zimmers produce the gun before the fight started? So many unanswered questions. Even the racism has to be proved by circumstantial evidence, unless you think that Zimmers' comments, e.g. "these assholes always get away," amount to racism. After listening to all the commentators, e.g. Mark Garagos, I now see that it was naive of me to think that the jury would convict even of manslaughter. It just was not there. Similar to Casey Anthony where the state simply could not prove how the child died. That weighed heavily on the jury's minds. But the mere fact that they could not look at Zimmers when they left the courtroom suggests they know he did something wrong, but using the charge they were given, they had no alternative.
There is a resemblance all right.
James, if you were on the jury, thought Zimmerman had done something wrong, and your choices were guilty or manslaughter, would you choose manslaughter if everyone else chose innocent?
If only one chose manslaughter, what happens in the verdict? Would that create a hung jury?