July 13th, 2013

The Zimmerman case: the deliberations of a jury of his “peers”

We don’t know what the Zimmerman jury will decide, but I have long felt apprehensive about both this jury’s size and its makeup (all women).

I have little doubt that the first factor—the jury’s small size (6) is responsible for the second, the unity of gender. Had it been a jury of twelve, there would have been much more likelihood that some men would have made it into the group.

Is this a jury of Zimmerman’s “peers”? “Peers” doesn’t mean the jury has to match the defendant exactly in the demographic sense; we don’t need six Hispanic/white men in their twenties to try him. Apparently, it is enough that there were men in the jury pool from which the jurors were chosen; it is that pool that must represent a cross-section of the community in the ethnicity, age, and gender sense.

And indeed there were men in the jury pool; we know that because two of the four alternate jurors are men. But they don’t get a vote in the verdict decision. The women who do have certain characteristics that are troubling, too, such as this about juror B-51:

When asked if Zimmerman did something wrong by following Martin instead of waiting for police, she said: “Yeah, I guess he did do something wrong.”

There also this, from juror B-37:

During the last round of questioning, she said she had an issue with the type of weapons people are allowed to carry. She also thought weapons’ training was inadequate for people seeking permits. “It should become harder,” she said.

Finally, we have this:

One of the women, the youngest, says she used the shooting in Sanford, Fla., as an example to her two adolescent kids not to go out at night.

Will any of this matter in the end? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. What we know does matter is the ability of these six jurors to listen to evidence, evaluate it, and then apply the law to it in a fair manner.

In this they were not helped by prosecutor John Guy who said, as part of his closing summation:

I don’t have any charts or timelines. I’m asking you to use your heart.

That charge of Guy’s makes a mockery of our system of justice, and it’s hard to believe it isn’t specifically tailored to the characteristics of women vs. men, or at least the general stereotypes that are not true of all women but are arguably true of more of them than of men. It’s not all that unusual for a defense lawyer to make such an appeal, but for the prosecution to do so seems highly unusual and more importantly it violates the prosecution’s duty to present overwhelming evidence of guilt and call on reason rather than emotion in the deciding (“beyond a reasonable doubt”).

And why didn’t Guy have “any charts or timelines”? It wasn’t because he has an anti-chart/timeline fetish. It wasn’t even because he didn’t think the jurors should bother their pretty little heads about it. It was because he was unable to use the facts available to draw up a chart or timeline that favored the prosecution.

Are women actually more ruled by emotion than logic? Darned if I know, although from my own observations of human nature, I suspect it is more common among them, although men are far from immune to the problem.

I saw a comment somewhere that the OJ jury was composed of all women. So I checked, and although that was not true, it is true that although that jury consisted of twelve people, only two of them were men.

There were other interesting anomalies about that jury’s composition: it was composed of 9 blacks, 1 Hispanic, and 2 whites; there were 2 college graduates, 9 high school graduates, and 1 with no diploma; all were Democrats; “None regularly read a newspaper, but eight regularly watch[ed] tabloid TV shows…five reported that they or another family member had had a negative experience with the police…nine thought that Simpson was less likely to be a murderer because he was a professional athlete.”

The OJ jury differed rather greatly from the jury pool from which they had been selected. The pool’s racial composition, for example, was “40% white, 28% black, 17% Hispanic, and 15% Asian.” The final jury was quite different.

One of the inexplicable decisions the OJ prosecution made was to file the case in LA rather than Santa Monica, where the crime had occurred. I have no idea why they did this, but it probably determined the outcome of the trial:

The racial composition of the jury was strongly influenced by the decision of the prosecution to file the Simpson case in downtown Los Angeles rather than–as is usually the case– in the judicial district where the crime occurred– in this case, Santa Monica. Had the case be filed in Santa Monica, the Simpson jury would have been mostly white instead of, as was the case, mostly African-American. With poll data showing that most whites believed Simpson to be guilty and most blacks believing him to be not guilty, the decision to file the case in Santa Monica may have been the biggest mistake the prosecution made. Vincent Bugliosi, the celebrated prosecutor in the Charles Manson case, said the mistake “dwarfed anything the defense did.”

I have been unable so far to find any description of the choices each side has made in the Zimmerman case during the jury selection phase, except that the prosecution unsuccessfully challenged the seating of a couple of the women who ultimately ended up being part of this jury.

At any rate, whoever they are, it’s in their hands now. The length of deliberations so far indicates to me that they are either seriously considering a guilty verdict or might ultimately end up a hung jury. It argues against not guilty as a possibility, although I certainly wouldn’t count that out because jury decisions are notoriously difficult to predict.

12 Responses to “The Zimmerman case: the deliberations of a jury of his “peers””

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    Democracy is a useful illusions in the hands of tyrants, for people are much more willing to be ruled when they think the choice is in their hands.

  2. Ray Says:

    I thought the OJ defense was brilliant. They portrayed OJ as the victim and put the police on trial.

  3. Minta Marie Morze Says:

    What really bothers me about this case is how much I didn’t know about this case until I recently looked into it. I am angry at how much political manipulation has occurred.

    Just check out a few things. Please, please. Justice is under attack in this country, and at least a few things should be pointed out. Anything you could find in a couple of minutes would serve the cause of truth. Such as:

    At least, please remember that in the past few weeks a soccer referee was hit A SINGLE TIME in the face and died of the injury, The idea that an injury to the head is trivial is nonsense. People can also be left with a broken jaw, etc., from blows to the head, or even brain-damaged. Even from a single blow. And remember, a reliable eye-witness said Trayvon Martin was straddling Zimmerman and raining blows down on him. (The one witness who said the Trayvon was on the bottom actually said it was the smaller guy on the bottom, which she assumed was Trayvon. A glance at the cutouts of the two participants clearly shows that Zimmerman was the smaller. You can’t use the photo, taken years before of Taryvon, to judge that he was a smaller child. He wasn’t.)

    Also, there was NO grand jury. A special prosecutor was appointed by the governor after some of the marches for Trayvon Martin, and she immediately saw that Zimmerman was charged. They overcharged him to please the Justice for Trayvon marchers and, I believe, so he’d plead out, as even a manslaughter charge in this instance brings decades of prison. The more you read about the way this case was handled, and the shenanigans that were allowed with the witnesses, the more you can judge its merits.

    Also, although they weren’t allowed in court, you should take a look at the texts and tweets of Trayvon Martin, and his actual photos online. His tweets show him to be the kind of person who would have happily tracked down Zimmerman and slugged him right away, and not out of fear. A court of law is supposed to be an arena in which there is a search for the Truth and Justice; so, why is it allowed that the prosecutor can KNOW the kind of person Trayvon was (from his texts, etc.) and at the same time lie and claim he was a just a frightened child, only trying to get home in the dark?

    If the truth was uncovered during the trial about both the participants, and not just Zimmerman, about what happened with the specific individuals involved, the jury would have enough evidence to determine what happened one way or another beyond reasonable doubt, and the jury would be able to evaluate the prosecutor’s closing statements to remove the emotion. I know that a person’s background doesn’t dictate his actions at a specific individual moment, and that the issue at the trial is the Zimmerman’s state of mind at the moment he fired the gun; but, the prosecution wouldn’t have been able to use the emotional “poor little child” closing if they had to stick to the truth, or if the jury knew enough to evaluate everything and pay attention just to the moment of conflict. Emotion could have been restrained, and logic and fact used instead, narrowing the focus to the issue.

    Also, Trayvon’s family got ahold of the girlfriend and questioned her BEFORE the police found out about her. When questioned by the police, the kid lied about two things UNDER OATH, to make herself look better and “to not hurt Trayvon’s mother”, who was present at the questioning. If the kid was shown to be willing to lie under oath for her own purposes, her testimony about the phone call cannot be taken as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

    Also, it’s clear that Trayvon could have gone directly home and avoided Zimmerman entirely. Or, a simple, “Hey, man, I’m staying here with my father” would have sufficed at that moment.

    (Also, read patdollar.com for info on Trayvon’s suspension from school, the one that led him to be staying with his father. The report shows that everything about his case demonstrates the politics that pervades it.)

    And for Pete’s sake, every policeman was once a wanna-be policeman. It’s not an indictment.

    There is a much more complex background to this case than the press and the activists say, and the more facts are exposed and the less emotion, the better. Whatever you decide about it, your decision should be based on facts. It is important to learn of the extent of the political games that have gone into this case, even before the incident happened.

    Facts allow you to shed the emotions that inevitably cloud judgment, not just about this trial but also about all the political and societal elements that brought us to this point.

    The case is just the tip of an iceberg that sticks above the water. It is the rest of an iceberg, the part hidden underwater, that brings down great ships.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Minta Marie Morze:

    Yes, this case has been a travesty in so many ways that it’s alarming even to those who were already quite cynical about the legal system. That’s why a great many people consider it a show trial.

    I have referred people on this blog to Legal Insurrection for their daily summaries, which have been excellent. Anyone who reads that blog objectively (or watched the trial objectively) knows that Zimmerman should be found not guilty of all charges. And yet I fear that will not happen.

    Originally I thought it was certainly possible Zimmerman was guilty. But the more I learned the more innocent he seemed.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Ray,

    I wonder whether you thought that during the OJ trial, before the verdict was rendered?

    During the trial, much of which I watched, I thought the defense was for the most part absurd in its contentions. They were not believable, and the prosecution was. The big error the prosecution made, however (other than the venue for the trial, as was pointed out in the post), was having OJ try on the gloves. That was stupid of them. But it should not have overwhelmed the preponderance of evidence of OJ’s guilt, which was quite overwhelming. If gloves get wet they can shrink, and the way in which he tried them on it seemed as though he could have gotten them on okay if he’d wanted to (of course, he most definitely did not want to).

    The defense’s defense was essentially that the police framed him. But they never advanced what I would consider a decent case that that was so. It is always a possibility, in any case. Perhaps we should never trust the police, and never convict anyone of a crime?

    My recollection is that most people were shocked by the verdict. Most people expected OJ to be found guilty. If the defense was so great and the prosecution so bad, why would most people have thought that he would be found guilty? IMHO, most people who said the prosecution was so bad and the defense so good engaged in revisionist history—they said that after the “not guilty” verdict rather than before.

    You may be different. You may have though before the verdict that OJ would be found not guilty. But if so, you are in the minority.

  6. Mr. Frank Says:

    We also have the case of Casey Anthony who killed her baby and who walked. If a child is missing for a month without being reported, the mother knows why.

  7. Minta Marie Morze Says:

    I think I first went to Legal Insurrection because you mentioned it. And it led on to other sites, too.

    I come to your blog every day, sometimes several times a day. I owe you and your other commenters a lot, including recommended links.

    (And I love the fact that I can watch dance with much more knowledgable eyes. Thanks!!!!)

  8. Minta Marie Morze Says:

    My last comment went to Neo, but I forgot to address it. :ol

  9. Gary Rosen Says:

    I saw an interview once with one of the detectives on the OJ case – “never had a case with so much evidence”. He was very critical of the prosecution’s handling of the case but said essentially the same thing, it was lost in jury selection and there was no way that jury would have ever voted to convict.

  10. Oldflyer Says:

    Breaking news: the jury has asked for clarification of manslaughter. I read that to mean that they are seriously considering convicting on that charge. If they believed O’Mara, they would have considered self defense and acquitted on everything.

    I wonder how these women will feel if they convict GZ for manslaughter and then find that the sentence is exactly the same as for 2nd degree Murder? Thirty years in prison, or until Martin’s avengers catch him alone. All information about the sentences, including the relationship between the two charges, is kept from the jury.

    This trial has exposed so many structural flaws within the system–not to mention the intentional corruption– that I expect few people will have much faith in it in the future.

    I was hoping for acquittal. Now I am just hoping for hung. As before, I have no optimistic expectations.

  11. carl in atlanta Says:

    Oldflyer:

    When I saw the news about the jury requesting clarification on manslaughter I got a very sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. These jurors may think they’d be doing a GZ a big favor by returning a manslaughter verdict. No doubt they believe the penalty will be much, much less. After all, drunk drivers and enraged spouses get convicted of manslaughter all the time and they seem to get relatively light sentences….

    In this case, however, there is a howling mob that must be sated.

    If these jurors convict him of manslaughter, most of them are going to be in for the shock of their lives.

  12. neo-neocon Says:

    Minta Marie Morze:

    You’re welcome!

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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