July 26 2013

Juror B29, Heroine

Charlotte Hays

While there have been trial verdicts in recent years that have cast doubt on whether the jury system still works in our polarized society, the jury in the George Zimmerman trial won my admiration because it did not go beyond the law. 

The prosecution didn’t manage to show that Zimmerman had killed Trayvon Martin for any reason other than that Zimmerman wanted to make it out of the encounter alive. Of course, we’ll never know for sure what happened, but there are many reasons—including this—to buy Zimmerman's story.  

When Juror B29 emerged from seclusion, granting an interview to ABC’s Robin Roberts, I was initially appalled by what she said. It appeared that she had succumbed to public pressure and was ready to call Zimmerman a murderer, fair or not. Here is what she said:

"George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can't get away from God," B29, also known as Maddy, told correspondent Robin Roberts. "And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with."

But here is the important thing about Juror B29: when it mattered, when she was deciding a man’s guilt or innocence, she stuck to the law. I didn’t notice this until James Taranto pointed it out in the Wall Street Journal:

 B29 turns out to be the very model of civic virtue. She didn't play God by mistaking her prejudice for omniscience. Instead she put it aside, examined the facts, applied the law, and concluded that the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. She was therefore obliged to find him not guilty, notwithstanding her personal feeling that he was not innocent.

Whether or not it was good form to speak publicly after the trial--and let us note that B29 was not the first Zimmerman juror to do so--she performed the juror's role flawlessly.

And [legal analyst] Lisa Bloom's suggestion that B29 should have taken the opportunity "to stand her ground in the jury room"--ha ha, "stand her ground," get it?--is irresponsible and despicable. Bloom is calling for jury nullification of fundamental constitutional rights: the presumption of innocence and the requirement that prosecutors prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I also like it that Juror B29 referred Zimmerman’s fate to God, rather than Attorney General Eric Holder, who is being pressured to further harass Zimmerman.  

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