Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Oh, Juror B37, you just make it too easy

I'm not going to say anything about the George Zimmerman verdict. As a defense lawyer, I'm ok with it. As a human, I'm not ok with Zimmerman's actions. I'm not ok with him thinking this verdict means his actions were perfectly ok. And I'm really not ok with him still carrying a gun wherever he goes.

But holy cow, I am fascinated by Juror B37! This lady is tone deaf, unaware, willfully ignorant and proud of it, disconnected, skeptical to an insane degree. I mean, this woman. She's left me speechless and yet with so very many avenues of response.

First, her voir dire is available to view up on Gawker. What I found interesting about that is how proud she is to be one of those people who just doesn't have time for anything. She doesn't watch t.v. She doesn't read. She doesn't surf the net. She just feeds her animals. Let me admit right now my bias against these people. These people who are above it, who are too good for the world. There's nothing virtuous in wrapping yourself in willful ignorance, in isolating yourself from your community. But she says these things with pride. I guess I'm just a lazy nogoodnik because I have all this time for reading the news, watching television (both edifying and craptastic), surfing the internet to expose myself to a wide variety of ideas and perspectives, and because I take a tremendous interest in the issues relevant to my community.

She also in this voir dire talked about how so many things can't ever be known. The media can't be trusted and never tells the truth. Even if they did, you could never possibly be getting enough information to make a full decision. You can just never really know. I hate this attitude and I think it's one of the most destructive trends in our current culture. There's nothing virtuous in insisting you can't ever really know something unless you were there. This is the same attitude that underlies unwillingness to accept the reality of climate change, evolution, and other well-settled scientific concepts.

I'm all for skepticism. I am an atheist, after all, because I can't take things on faith. But I can be convinced. When there's sufficient evidence, I can come to a conclusion. I think it's a weakness not to be able, or willing, to come to conclusions. People should have open minds and wait to hear evidence from multiple sources before coming to a conclusion, but they should feel free to at that point come to a conclusion. If they refuse to allow themselves to be convinced even when all of the evidence is in support of one side, that's not a good thing.

Juror B37's now infamous interview with Anderson Cooper makes it abundantly clear that she would do well to open herself up to the greater world around her. She would do well to read a book, a magazine, watch some documentaries, anything to get her out of her incredibly narrow viewpoint. Unwilling even to consider that race played a role in this case in any way. (It wasn't Martin's race that got Zimmerman's attention, just "circumstances" without even the slightest idea that his race might have been one of those circumstances.) Utterly condescending to Rachel Jeantel, feeling sorry for her lack of communication skills and education, projecting that Rachel felt "inadequate." Clearly unable or unwilling to picture the situation she was charged with judging from the perspective of the dead Black teenager. (Probably unable as she's never exposed herself to the kinds of reading or viewing or broader world experiences that help us view situations from perspectives beyond our own.)

It's not a matter of questioning her ultimate verdict so much as shaking one's head at the complete lack of awareness this woman displays. Did she have no clue at all how she sounds? Willfully ignorant, myopic, sheltered and proud of it. She must not have because she originally thought she would write a book about her experiences in this trial. It would make sense if she never exposes herself to anything outside of her small life that she would have no sense of how others might perceive her. I'm guessing she did not expect she would receive quite this much negative feedback. I certainly suspect she has no idea there are certain code words and phrases people associate with racism, so she wouldn't have any clue they were peppered throughout her interview. Now, 4 of her other 5 jurors have issued a joint statement distancing themselves from her Anderson Cooper statements, so at least those 4 recognize how tone deaf she appears to be (or at least they recognize that a large segment of society sees her that way and don't want to be tarred the same way).

After being introduced to this woman, via her voir dire and interviews, what I really want to do is subscribe her to a variety of magazines and send her a big shipment of books. I've got some documentaries in mind I would like for her to watch. And in return, if she had some similar recommendations for me, I would read or watch them. I do like to be introduced to new perspectives, after all.


Anonymous said...

I'm also an atheist. It kind of disturbs me how so many atheists (it seems the vast majority) are not basing their opinion of the Zimmerman verdict on evidence. Their opinion is based more on emotion than evidence. I think their emotion is "correct," but evidence is the correct way to decide guilt or innocence.

One of the very things that drove me from religion is how theistic beliefs are so often based on emotion ("the Spirit whispered in my ear and I got this great feeling of love") rather than evidence, yet atheists seem to overwhelmingly base their opinion mostly on emotion.

I actually watched the entire trial from jury selection through the verdict. As I reported back to my family and others, I was trying to figure out, in the most unbiased way I could, what proof the state had that Zimmerman was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I found the lack of proof of guilt to be astounding. I predicted, based on the opening statement alone, that unless the state had more than indicated by the opening statement or the jury went by emotion rather than evidence, it would lose.

S said...

Juries often (usually?) go by emotion and then mold the evidence to justify their verdicts. Watch any 48 Hours and you'll see that. So it's no surprise the prosecution went that route in this case. They just had the totally wrong jury make-up because the emotional story the prosecution told wasn't what appealed to the jurors.

One thing I find frustrating with this case is that I have numerous clients convicted on very little evidence. I'm frustrated that my clients didn't get that rigorous adherence to the burden of proof. So color me jealous that a guy who admits shooting an unarmed teenager gets acquitted while my clients who did nothing got years (or decades) in prison.

I don't think it's fair to make blanket statements that atheists as a group are overwhelmingly basing their opinions here on emotion. Lots and lots of people, regardless of their faith or lack thereof, both have emotional reactions to this case separate and apart from their rational, logical understanding of the presumption of innocence, burden of proof, etc.

The prosecution undoubtedly blew this case. There was a path to convicting Zimmerman. They just didn't make the case. (It didn't help that the judge didn't inform the jury of all the law around self-defense.)

A Voice of Sanity said...

> There was a path to convicting Zimmerman.

Yes. It's called prejudice. That's the totality of the prosecution's case.

> It didn't help that the judge didn't inform the jury of all the law around self-defense.

The judge already bent over backwards to help the prosecution by (improperly) suppressing all of Martin's previous behavior which supported Zimmerman's statements.

There's no way to make Zimmerman an aggressor here. He threw no punches, no kicks. He simply wanted to return to his vehicle and depart when he was set on by Martin who assumed that this "creepy old man" was an easy target for violence - like teenagers picking on the homeless.

S said...

No, it's horn book law that things about the victim that were unknown to the defendant are not admissible in a self-defense case. The judge was absolutely right to follow the law on that.

There is a way to make Zimmerman the aggressor and Juror B37 said it herself. She said Zimmerman pursued and confronted Martin.

I frankly don't believe Zimmerman's claim that he was returning to his car. I don't think the jury did, either.

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