My Reflections on the Interview of Juror # B-37

Trayvon never had a chance for justice, based on the composition of the jury…

Juror B-37: “George Zimmerman learned his lesson”.  First, what lesson did George and other vigilantes in waiting really learn? And do we want to teach a lesson through murdering a child?

Education (particularly cultural literacy) is so important; what you don’t know can hurt others……

Neither the Judge nor the prosecution understood that race was a determining factor in this tragedy; however the “clever” and better prepared defense team clearly understood it. Their job (as they saw it) was to make a social-cultural link between George Zimmerman and the jury; such that the members of the jury would, at the end of the day, feel that on that terrible evening, they too would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Do we not only need to diversify juries; but also prosecution teams; Judgeships?

Having a difficult time communicating with my “inner-feminist”.  A women judge (who prohibited the mention and use of race as a factor in this case); and an all-female Jury; and a clearly incompetent woman States Attorney (“Trayvon was profiled, but not racially profiled”; Huh?)  I often imagine that perhaps we would have a better world if women were in charge; but this case is not a model for that type of imaginative thinking….

There was a terrible cultural-linguistic divide (revealed as best she could by Rachel Jeantel) that formed the belief system that drove this trial; eventually to an innocent verdict. The only party that fully appreciated, and successfully exploited this divide was the defense attorneys. The cross examination of Ms. Jeantel had three objectives: (1) “They”, are not like us; they are not us. (2) The contrast to the nation: shown graphically by the internet posting of Don West and his children eating vanilla ice-cream; but more to the jurors. “Is this”; he asked psychologically (the “this” being Ms. Jeantel) like the teenagers in your family, the teenage family members of your friends? And should you not be afraid of them? (3) The jurors did not understand the concept of “friendships” in the context of teenagers; and further, with Black teenagers in particular. The historical segregated housing patterns in the U.S.; has created Black communities in this nation that contain a broad spectrum (social, economic, educational) of neighbors and friends. For example, growing up in Brooklyn meant that many of my friends took paths (and lived lives) very different from the path I took, and the life I lived. If I were in Trayvon’s place and unable to speak for myself; and some of my friends were called to testify; it would be false to link their belief systems, social practices, life styles and interest to me. If there is one powerful take away from my experience as a professional educator (and my primary interest in opposing it) over the years; is the inability of those “in charge” (that includes the Right, Liberals and the so-called “new reformers”) to appreciate the “differences” (lifestyles, interest, academic capability) of Black students. All Black students are seen as being inside of the same section of a uniquely restrictive “failing” bell curve, until and unless they through the force of their will (or the wills of strong parents) break out. The American child who has, and continues to be left behind is the Black and Latino student who is on or above grade level; who likes to read, and who is interested in STEM* and other creative activities. On that day in the courtroom Mr. West was asking the jury an important philosophical question: “This (Ms. Jeantel) is Trayvon Martin, now do we really need to make a big fuss over his death?”

The defense team completely destroyed a great deal of the credibility of the “media talking legal heads”; who said that women and mothers would be sympathetic to the young victim and his mother. Listening to this juror; it was clear that these women made no connection between the murdered youth, their own children, and children in their social-ethnic circle. There was no “sisterly-motherly” identification with Trayvon’s mother; rather they saw Ms. Sabrina Fulton as the mother of a tried, convicted and executed perpetrator; and perhaps George Zimmerman could have done a better legally procedural job. They probably (based on her comments) would have preferred that the police arrest him, and that he go through the criminal justice system. The “turn-key” thought (the rational for the innocent assertion) however, is that the objective reality of Trayvon’s innocence was never a consideration in their minds.

Our young people have to be advised that when they are in a “formal” situation (i.e. legal, a job/internship interview) where they are speaking to a group like the Trayvon Martin jury; that they must “code-switch” so that they can successfully communicate their ideas. Educators must push-back, against the push-back of the “keeping it real” concept many teens cling to. Ms. Rachel Jeantel understood the misunderstanding on the part of the jury, but only after she testified. The idea that Trayvon saw George Zimmerman as a possible sexual predator was never made clear to the jury.

I think in the back of those Jurors’ minds: “Well my teenage son would not be going to the store alone at that hour of the day”; and so, at some point in their mental deliberations they had to diminish the standing of Trayvon’s parents; or an acquittal would have been impossible.

If the “Dred Scott” factor is a fact in the subconscious minds of Jurors; combined with the idea of: “your mere presence means you are up to no good”; then this does not (and has not) boded well for young Black men who find themselves in court, whether as victims, or as the “really” accused.

If in cases like this (and unfortunately there will be more cases like this; particularly since the “act” has been legally sanctioned); where the murdered victim like Trayvon, will actually be forced to prove their “innocence”; the prosecution then, must fight to have a: Jury that included the peers of the victim, not just the perpetrator; who is in this case was actually the defendant, although the case did not play out that way.

There is this odd notion; not only held by this juror but clearly also believed by many in this nation that racial profiling does not exist; thus their inability to understand the problem with: “Stop and Frisk”. I wanted so much for Anderson (Don Lemon where were you when I needed you?) to ask her: “Is there such a thing as racial profiling?” If she answers “No”; then things are clear. But if she answers, “yes”. How would she explain how it did not exist in this case?

I don’t honestly believe that Juror # b-37 and her fellow jurors are “racist”; as we would ascribe this term to someone who is a Nazi or a member of the Klu Klux Klan. I do believe that they are living with a set of racial prejudices and presumptions; that when given a powerful operational context; i.e. being a member of a jury or an armed member of a “neighborhood watch group” can have deadly outcomes. But further, these pre-judged belief systems can, as in this particular case, serve to deny justice, and encourage vigilantism against a nation of young people, who are unable to trade in their skin color for a safer hue.

 

 

*STEM= Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics