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.
Zimmerman seems to have put on a great deal of weight from the time of the killing until his acquittal. It could be that being tried for murder is bad for your health.
Dennis, I hope Z-man comes to the realization that "voices" do not justify murder. I hope his religious community takes some positive action to convince him he is delusional if he hears voices. I hope his conscience hangs heavy over his head. I hope he makes restitution through public service or some other gesture. Do I think any of this will happen. NO! Hope springs eternal.
Well, you can be sure that the Hannity video of Zimmers calling the killing "God's plan" did not shock the conscience of this jury. That would explain why lawyers probably don't like having atheists on juries. They know we use reason, not supposition. When I heard the interview on Anderson Cooper tonight (Monday, the 15th July) I was impressed in the main with how gullible the woman was, how she took the unknowns and extracted from them the story most favorable to Zimmers in every case. She actually said that she believed -- need I put italics on that word? -- that the cry for help was from Zimmers, yet one commercial later said that the jury simply threw the "Help!" cry out and did not consider it. Point: if she believed it was Zimmers calling for help, she obviously DID consider it, and that motivated her to attempt to persuade the three voting for conviction (two on manslaughter, one for murder) to vote for acquittal. I actually view religious belief as such a delusional practice, I think it carries over into other areas of life, including jury deliberations. I mean, if you believe in God, you might as well believe in Munchkins.
My experience on juries is like yours. After I was rejected twice, I asked an assistant prosecutor who brought his dog to the same dog park I used, how they make decisions. He said that prosecutors always reject college professors on the grounds that they are very likely to be knee-jerk bleeding heart liberals and as such they will be reluctant to convict.
Zimmerman was, according to reports in the media, arrested previously for assaulting a police officer and involved in a domestic violence case. I suspect he got away with murder in this case, but when we put things in the hands of a jury, the outcomes are uncertain.
As for Santayana, I find that the first refuge of a scoundrel is religion.
Allan, I assume none of Z-man's history was allowed in testimony before the jury.
There is a specific rule of evidence, recognized in most states, prohibiting introduction of past incidents of behavior by a defendant to show conformity therewith. The rule is riddled with exceptions, e.g. to show motive, design, opportunity, preparation, plan, &., and I would have thought that the State could have found one of those to apply. Even then, however, introduction of such evidence usually is limited to situations in which the defendant takes the stand and is asked about prior incidents but denies them. As you know, Zimmers did not take the stand. I do not practice in Florida.
I think our jury system is the weakest part of the US judicial process. First of all is the common misconception that a jury is to be made up of the defendant's peers. The Constitution says “an impartial jury” not of one's peers. Further, the Constitution does not dictate how the jury is impaneled – there is no criteria for jury selection.
Voir dire does not select only the stupid , what it does is allow selection of those most easily persuaded but not necessary impartial (in fact lawyers look for those that are partial to their side).
I would posit a system that uses trained professional jurist. Individuals that understand, rules of evidence and reasonable doubt and are paid public officials. The jurists would be selected randomly from outside the district in which alleged crime occurred. The prosecution nor the defense would be involved in the impanel jurists
In criminal cases would not a jury of peers consist of other criminals?
That's funny, Doctor!
Ah, but could they be trusted to be impartial to a fellow felon?
And therein lies the rub?
What makes you think some of them aren't?