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wshaffer
Thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict 
13th-Jul-2013 10:00 pm
mini-me
Like a lot of people, I'm disappointed by the verdict in the Zimmerman case. However, based on my own experience serving on a jury, I'm not entirely surprised that it turned out the way it did.

First, on a jury, you have to find that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I don't recall the exact instructions we were given on what constitutes reasonably doubt, but it's a tough standard to meet. In the case that I was a juror on, I know and I suspect that most of my fellow jurors knew, that the defendant was probably guilty. It was a domestic violence case; he had prior convictions. Statistically, he was guilty. But because of the specific details of the case, there was room for doubt.

Second, you can only find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the charge or charges brought against them. Second-degree murder has a very specific definition, and I'm not surprised that the jury didn't find that the prosecution had proven Zimmerman's guilt there. I'm more surprised that they didn't go for the lesser charge of manslaughter, but apparently they asked a lot of questions about that charge, so maybe that definition isn't as simple as it looks either.

I don't think any of the people on the jury I served on felt good about essentially saying to our defendant, "Okay, you're totally innocent, walk on out of here and hold your head up high." Sometimes I still wonder if we did the right thing. In a general sense, I think a justice system that reduces the risks of the innocent being wrongly condemned at the expense of occasionally letting the guilty go free is a good thing. Knowing that I was a juror who probably let a guilty man go free is a harder thing to sit with.
Comments 
14th-Jul-2013 05:23 am (UTC)
... yeah. :(

I'm dismayed about the manslaughter charge sliding because even if murder is not the appropriate category, there definitely was a crime committed here.

I'm very glad I did not have to deal with the case you did when I had jury duty. It sounds awful for all involved.
14th-Jul-2013 10:20 am (UTC)
Istr remember some other cases like that lately: a lesser charge would be more suitable, but the judge will not allow the jury to consider the lesser charge, so they have to find 'not guilty'. This suggests that the 'not guilty' verdict was what the judge wanted.

What would happen to a juror who refused to go along? Who said, "I'm not going along with this, I dissent. Make it a mistrial."

14th-Jul-2013 10:35 pm (UTC)
Interestingly, the judge, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney in my recent domestic violence jury case spent a decent chunk of time discussing what reasonable doubt meant, and were very clear that it didn't mean 'beyond a shadow of a doubt' because all people have doubt, etc. I'm not sure how much it helped for the other jurors, but I thought it was a fair presentation of what was meant by reasonable doubt, and how 'reason' works in that regard.

I don't know that anyone had the same discussion with the Martin/Zimmerman jurors. I do find it interesting that they asked so many questions about the legal definitions of the charges. It makes me wonder if this case was lost during the charging phase, and not voir dire.

Still. The upshot message that comes out of this is that Trayvon Martin was killed for walking-while-black, and that apparently all it takes for a black person to be considered a threat worthy of self-defense is that they be black in another person's general vicinity.

Edited at 2013-07-14 10:35 pm (UTC)
16th-Jul-2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
There are news reports now of one of the jurors saying that none of them really thought race was a factor.

I can't even. If a juror had said, "Of course race was a factor, but we still felt we had to return the verdict we did given the law," I could have respected that. "Race wasn't a factor," makes me wonder what planet they've been living on.
16th-Jul-2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I watched the whole Anderson Cooper interview and wondered how he managed to resist screaming in frustration. Seriously. Her comments about Rachel Jeantel? Her... just everything. Everything. I don't even.
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