If Juror B37 reflects the mindset of the jury, those five white and one black women made a collective decision to dismiss the actions of George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012 in their collective rush to convict Trayvon Martin. In that rainy, prematurely dark twilight, Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin, a young Black man walking to his father’s home during an NBA All-Stars half-time, talking to a friend on his phone, carrying some snacks for the second half of the game. They scuffled, and Zimmerman drew on Martin and killed him. In acquitting him, the jury decided Trayvon was responsible for his own death.
In the United States, a 21-year-old Black man has a 29% chance of doing prison time, and nearly one in three between the ages of 20 and 29 will be incarcerated (Center for Children’s Law and Policy). The revelations of Juror B37 explain how that happens, and how Trayvon was added to the list of Black murderers, this time of himself.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, Juror B37 says race wasn’t discussed during the deliberations. Racism as a motivation wasn’t worth a thought, although it was a thread throughout the trial. She patronizingly wrote off the testimony of Rachel Jeantel when the question of race was raised: Juror B37 felt “very sorry” for her. “I didn’t think [Jeantel’s testimony] was very credible, but I felt very sorry for her.” At the same time, she admits she didn’t understand her “a lot of the time,” and it seems that access to court transcripts didn’t change that. It would appear that Juror B27’s own racism and arrogance blinded her to considering the state of Zimmerman’s mind.
Juror B37 says race wasn’t discussed during the deliberations. Racism as a motivation wasn’t worth a thought. Juror B37 admits that “when [Zimmerman] was in the car, and he had called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car.” She agrees that “George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there.” None of that mattered either.
What did matter was what Trayvon was doing. “Anybody would think anybody walking down the road, stopping and turning and looking–if that’s exactly what happened–is suspicious.” Apparently even if the man looking back was looking at his stalker. And it mattered to Juror B37 where Zimmerman’s heart was. “In the right place,” she said. She speculated about his future and concluded she didn’t think Zimmerman would do it again: “He’s learned his lesson.” Zimmerman’s heart was her criteria for judgment and she’s sure he won’t do it again, and that’s enough.
That’s not to say she didn’t know what happened. While she sifted out anything that might have incriminated Zimmerman, she still couldn’t deny who initiated the evening’s events. She told CNN, “I think the roles changed,” admitting that Zimmerman had, for Juror B37, provoked the confrontation. Four other jurors have disavowed her statement, not allowing even that much of the night’s events to enter into their deliberations.
Ultimately, what mattered were not the facts, the testimony, the circumstances, the events that led to the confrontation. Juror B37’s interview is awash in hesitations and speculative “I think’s.” Her impressionistic painting of that awful night’s events, her fantasies of facts not in evidence, her personal determinations of what facts counted, who was good and who was bad, ended in her vote to acquit. She was looking, consciously or not, for a way to turn “Georgie” loose. She found it by winnowing out all the circumstances before the first punch, and with no proof decided that Martin hit first. In an fantastical display of channeling the dead, she declared “Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let [Zimmerman] scare him and get the one-over, up on him, or something. And I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him.” Not what provoked the punch, not anything Zimmerman did, only what Trayvon did mattered. To Juror B37’s way of thinking, Trayvon Martin should have allowed Zimmerman to stalk him, intimidate him, threaten him. Apparently the five other jurors agreed with her.
That’s how you get an acquittal and convict the victim, that’s how Black men end up in prison, and that’s how you avoid justice: ignore the racism–yours and the accused, forget the context, dismiss the provocation, compare your assessment of the actors’ “natures,” and you end up with a shifty, violence-prone young Black man. Forget who was left holding the gun. It happens that way a lot.