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Does the Jury System Work?

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Lady-justice-jury

Lady-justice-jury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From what I’ve been reading online, and hearing on National Public Radio from callers and talking heads of every political stripe, I’ve formed a few tentative conclusions as to why George Zimmerman was found innocent.

1. A jury of six, as opposed to twelve, vastly increases the chance of reaching a unanimous decision. (That’s just commons sense.) Why the jury was six I don’t know, but it seems that anything goes in the State of Florida.

2. A jury composed of one gender exclusively, whether male or female, should not in my opinion be permitted.

3. A jury composed of five people of one color or ethnicity and only one person of  any other, should likewise be impermissible (IMO). In this case the jury was composed of  five white women and one who, like GZ, “identifies as Hispanic,” according to cnsnews.com.

In many therapeutic workshops and political groups I’ve participated in over the years, any time the ethnic composition resembled this kind of near homogeneity, the facilitator openly acknowledged it before beginning the main focus of the group, and invited discussion. It was part of the process, thought necessary: when a group is nearly homogenous but for one or two lonely others, it’s a setting for conflict, whether hidden or overt. No, I’m not suggesting that trial juries begin deliberations with a therapy session—but come to think of it, why not? In my version of Utopia they would! In the world as it sadly exists, we could at least remedy the situation by, again, not allowing this kind of jury composition (IMO).

4. So far, the one jury member who has spoken was white. Among other things, she said:

George Zimmerman's mother

George Zimmerman’s mother

“For whatever reason, Mr. Martin…decided to confront Mr. Zimmerman and threw the first punch.”

Just how does she know this? As far as I know, nobody alive other than GZ knows if that’s what happened. Maybe the defense put it forward as their narrative—but nobody knows if it’s true for sure, and

Trayvon Martin's mother

Trayvon Martin’s mother

we probably never will. George Zimmerman’s and Trayvon Martin’s mothers each identified the voice calling for help on the tape as belonging to her own son.

This juror, known as number B-37, said that when the women started deliberating, three of them wanted to acquit, two wanted to convict GZ of manslaughter, and one wanted murder in the second degree. After reviewing the law and the evidence, the person who initially wanted second-degree murder changed her vote to manslaughter. She said they reviewed the case “again and again,” and, “Some jurors wanted to find Zimmerman guilty of something, but there was just no place to go based on the law.”

What it comes down to (IMO) is that the system does not always work, and the reason it doesn’t is that human beings, as I’ve recently emphasized elsewhere, are innately flawed. If the prosectution puts on a better case than the defense, as appears to have happened here, the evidence or lack of same doesn’t even matter so much. Even something seemingly trivial like one attorney being more dynamic or better-looking, can easily sway a juror to believe him or her. On top of these inevitable human weaknesses, jurors are supposed to come in with the least possible amount of information on the case—so when it comes to a trial like this one, which has been written and sp0ken of everywhere during the past year, those who end up on the jury are not exactly brilliant, alert citizens who keep a sharp eye on what’s happening around the country and the world.

Dare I utter the word STUPID here and be branded a classist intellectual snob? Why the fuck not? I can prove my case with one small anecdote:

Juror B-37 was asked if she would feel comfortable having George Zimmerman as a volunteer watchman in her neighborhood. Why certainly, said she; after all, “George has learned his lesson.”

george-zimmerman-trial

Latuff Cartoons

And oh yes—Georgie even got his gun back.

I rest my case.

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2 responses »

  1. Thanks for your clarity, Marcy! And it seems they don’t know what that 6th juror is–she’s said to “appear to be Hispanic.’ I’ve been told I appear to be Hispanic, and I’m French and Irish! So they could all have been “white.” The mind of the beholder, etc.

  2. I originally heard she was black, but today found the amended version of appearing to be Hispanic! They say of GZ he “identifies” as Hispanic. They all want to claim they aren’t white I suspect, thinking they then cannot possibly be accused of racism. (see the raving comment from a lunatic on my previous post.) It’s a strange strange world we live in.

    Oh, and Susan, your literary sensibilities had me certain you must be Jewish! Just shows MY stereotyping!–MS

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