A number of people have been asking for our response to Juror B-29’s remarks during ABC’s Robin Roberts' interview about the Zimmerman verdict. The big headline from the story is “George Zimmerman got away with murder,” but that is an inaccurate distillation of Juror B-29's statements. Rather, the substance of the juror’s other comments are more complicated and nuanced. Here’s a key exchange that got my attention:
Juror B-29 says, “For myself, he’s guilty, because the evidence shows he’s guilty.”
Robin Roberts asks for a clarification, “He’s guilty of?”
Juror B-29 responds, “Killing Trayvon Martin. But as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.”
We acknowledge, and always have, that George killed Trayvon Martin. Over the last 15 months, we’ve heard from a lot of people who feel that anytime a life is lost at someone’s hands, the person responsible is guilty of SOMETHING. Indeed, it is natural to feel this way. In a self-defense case, however, that fact that the defendant committed a homicide is stipulated -- it is undisputed. However, self-defense is one of the instances under the law when homicide is justifiable. People may disagree with self-defense laws, but a juror’s job is not to decide what a law should be, her job is to apply the facts presented at trial to the laws they are instructed about. Based on her statement, it seems Juror B-29 looked at the law, and whether or not she agreed with the law, she did her job and made her decision on a legal basis. This is the essence of what we seek in a juror: the ability to use one’s common sense, apply the law to the facts, agree not to be swayed by sympathy or emotion, no matter how loudly it’s argued by the prosecutors, and decide a lawful and fair verdict.
When Robin Roberts asks Juror B-29 if she stands by her decision, she says, “I stand by my decision because of the law. If I stand by my decision because of my heart, he would have been guilty.” While that decision of guilt would have been an emotional one, it would not have been a legal one. We applaud her ability to maintain the distinction.
We don’t expect jurors to be heartless people. Every murder case starts with someone who has had their life taken, someone who leaves behind grieving loved-ones. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we don’t ask jurors to be immune to that. But we do ask jurors not to reach their verdicts based on what their hearts tell them; for the verdict, a juror must set aside emotions and follow the law. Based on her comments, Juror B-29 accepted a tremendous burden, set her feelings aside, and cast a verdict based the evidence presented in court and on the law she was provided.
Any juror that follows Juror B-29’s process will deliver a fair and just verdict.