Now that jury selection in the George Zimmerman murder trial is complete, six women will decide his fate. The trial begins tomorrow. (The "Dawn" in the title refers to Tony Orlando and Dawn, Orlando's back up singers)
There's an old joke about not wanting your fate to be decided by people not smart enough to get out of jury duty. While every juror brings certain predispositions into the jury box, it seems that having 12 members would even out some of that inherent bias. In Florida 12-member juries are only used in trials where a guilty verdict could lead to the death penalty.
In this trial, where both the victim of the alleged crime and the defendant are on trial, personal bias is going to play an important role. Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman and the rest of the nation were saturated with coverage of the event, the backlash and the inevitable outpouring of public opinion.
One of the jurors opined that Zimmerman must have done something wrong because he was arrested. I, too believe that Zimmerman did something wrong, but I question the impartiality of a juror who assumes guilt based on the defendent's arrest. Many factors contribute to an arrest, some having nothing to do with guilt or innocence.
Sadly, even with our presumption of innocence until proven guilty, many have gone to their death, only to have their innocence established posthumously. Michael Morton was freed last year after spending 25 years in a Texas prison. DNA evidence established his innocence and evidence of prosecutorial misconduct was uncovered.
One juror picked to decide the fate of George Zimmerman asked why Trayvon Martin was out so late, as if the time he went to 7-Eleven to buy candy was a contributory factor leading to his death. Nevermind that the shooting occured before 7:30 PM.
Another juror referred to the riots in Sanford leading up to the arrest of Zimmerman. There were no reports of riots in the news or anywhere else, although there were pictures of peaceful protests involving groups of black people, which seem to constitute riots in this woman's mind.
How this jury will treat George Martin will unfold in the next month or two. It's clear that they have their work cut out for them. I would like to think that each juror will put any predispostion she brings into the courtroom in abeyance and listen carefully to the facts of the case before rendering judgement.
A lot has been said about this case. A lot of deep thinkers have conceived of a plethora of reasons why Trayvon Martin somehow caused his own death. One asked me in a previous blog why Martin didn't call the police, as did Zimmerman. Besides the fact that it's an irrelevant question of no probative value, the timeline would indicate that a 9-1-1 call from Martin would not have changed the outcome.
To me, the main fact of the case is that Trayvon Martin was doing what each and every one of us would take for granted without a second thought. He was simply walking down the street. The fact that George Zimmerman thought he looked suspicious only speaks to the prejudice, predisposition or bias in Zimmerman's mind, as is reflected by his comments to the 9-1-1 operator.
If you ever find yourself walking down the street on a cold or rainy night, all huddled up against the elements and someone approaches you with a gun, ask yourself, "what did I do to bring this on"? Be careful, though. You, like Trayvon Martin may suddenly find yourself fighting for your life. I sincerely hope you win.
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