A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Zimmerman Jury

I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system -- that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. Harper Lee

“Clients tell us our involvement adds unique value to the trial team by reducing the uncertainty in jury selection.  We draw upon case-specific research and our experience in similar litigation to construct juror profiles and tools for eliciting bias.  Through well-constructed Supplemental Juror Questionnaires (SJQs) and voir dire questions, we help counsel draw out the attitudes and experiences that predispose jurors against our client, so that peremptory strikes can be exercised intelligently.  Our training as social scientists and experience interviewing thousands of mock and actual jurors gives us unique insight into what goes on behind closed doors in deliberations, and how to identify the most dangerous jurors.” Introductory statement from a jury selection firm website

I don’t want to write this piece; was hoping that someone would write about the forces working on the jury.  But, other than a piece by Bruce Jackson in Counterpunch, using a quote by Bill Kunstler dismissing what will soon be my argument, I have not found a discussion that absolves me of the responsibility.

Here is what I know about the Jury: 6 women (five called white and one called Hispanic), all from the Sanford area, anonymous now and wishing to remain anonymous in the future.  I assume that one or more them may be a mother.  I know that the jury asked for a listing of the evidence early in the deliberations and that later there was a question about the charge of manslaughter option; that they deliberated for about 16 hours.  The jury was sequestered for the duration of the trial.

The jury members were selected, at least in part, because they didn’t report having strong feelings about the case at hand or much detailed knowledge of the case.  I suspect that the defense wanted all women and that the prosecution didn’t fully appreciate the value of such a selection for the defense.

The key elements are: (1) that the jury members were from the Sanford area; (2) they were all women (my guess is that all were married, something that would have been important to the defense); (3) that they were sequestered; and (4) that there was no way for their anonymity to extend to family, friends and immediate community: their decision would be known to their communities, but their identities beyond their immediate communities would be less likely to be known, at least for a time.

The jurors, therefore, would not be making a decision in a vacuum of public opinion – with the blindfold of justice – but with the certainty that their decision would be answered for in their homes, schools, churches, jobs and grocery stores.  These women were not free agents; they had husbands, brothers, fathers, and uncles whose attitudes were there in the courtroom with them.  They had children to protect.

They were part of a community whose legal system would not have even questioned George Zimmerman beyond his initial story, much less charge him, except for “outside agitation.”  These women did not have to be racist in any way to behave with racism for self-protection.

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