Updated: 7/17/13, 10:25am ET – Updated with statement from four other jurors distancing themselves from Juror B37.
By Chris Hoenig
In an exclusive interview with CNN, one of the jurors in George Zimmerman’s murder trial said race was never considered during their deliberations. The woman, identified only as Juror B37, told Anderson Cooper that the fact that Trayvon Martin was Black was not an issue. “If there was another person—Spanish, white, Asian—if they came in the same situation as Trayvon did, I think George would have reacted the same way,” she said. “I think all of us thought race did not play a role. We never had that discussion. I think he just profiled him because he was the neighborhood watch and he profiled anyone that was acting strange.”
Sitting in silhouette to protect her anonymity, Juror B37 added that the first vote taken during deliberations was split: three votes to acquit Zimmerman, one to convict him of second-degree murder and two to convict him of manslaughter. “There were a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something and after hours and hours and hours of deliberating over the law, and reading it over and over and over again, we decided there’s just no … other place to go,” she said.
In the end, she said, Zimmerman was guilty of nothing more than poor judgment. “When he was in the car, and he had called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car.”
She also said that one of the prosecution’s star witnesses—and one of the trial’s most talked about on social media—was anything but convincing. Rachel Jeantel was on the phone with Martin when the confrontation began, and she described how Martin told her that he was being followed by a “creepy-a** cracker.” But Juror B37 said Jeantel’s story didn’t add up completely in her mind. “The time she was on the phone with Trayvon … hopefully if she heard anything she would say she did, but the time coincides with George’s statements and testimony of time limits and what had happened during that time.” The juror also attacked Jeantel’s mannerisms and dialect, saying she believed Jeantel “felt inadequate toward everyone because of her education and her communication skills. I just felt sadness for her.”
Jeantel later defended herself, also on CNN, telling Piers Morgan that she grew up speaking Spanish and Creole and has a speech condition caused by an underbite that she needs surgery to fix. As for the verdict, she called it “b.s.” and said she didn’t believe that the jury could ignore race. “It was racial, let’s be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen” she asked, noting the jury lacked diversity: “They’re white.”
The six-member jury, which was sequestered during the trial, was made up entirely of women, five white and one Latino. Juror B37 had announced plans to write a book, but has backtracked on those plans after returning to her family and assimilating back into public life.
Other Jurors Distance Themselves
In a statement released Tuesday through Florida’s Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court, four other jurors on the panel that acquitted Zimmerman distanced themselves from Juror B37’s statements.
“We, the undersigned jurors, understand there is a great deal of interested in this case. But we ask you to remember that we are not public officials and we did not invite this type of attention into our lives. We also wish to point out that the opinions of Juror B37, expressed on the Anderson Cooper show were her own, and not in any way representative of the jurors listed below,” they wrote.
“Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us. The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts but in the end we did what the law required us to do. We appeal to the highest standards of your profession and ask the media to respect our privacy and give us time to process what we have been through.”
The statement is signed by Jurors B51, B76, E6 and E40, all described in court records as white women. The lone remaining juror, described as a Latino, has not publicly commented.
Protests Turn Violent
Despite calls for “calm reflection” by President Obama and pleas for peaceful protests from advocates, demonstrations turned violent in California.
In Los Angeles, a TV reporter and his cameraman were attacked by protesters, sending one to the hospital with a head injury. A group of protesters also stormed an area Walmart, throwing merchandise and trying to break open jewelry displays. Video posted on social media also shows one young man throwing a large garbage can at a fast-food restaurant window.
Mayor Eric Garcetti blamed the violence on a small group and said people have the right to voice their disagreement, but not through the destructive scenes seen Monday. “The Martin family didn’t ask anyone to break car windows,” Garcetti said. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said an initially reserved response from police would become more aggressive Tuesday. “This will not be allowed to continue,” he said. More than a dozen people were arrested in the protests.
Further north, Oakland police arrested at least six people on charges of vandalism and assault following a day of protests that shut down an area freeway. Demonstrators blocked all lanes of Interstate 880 and tried to march up an onramp to Interstate 580 before being turned away and back onto local streets.
Over the weekend, police turned to nonlethal, forceful measures to quell protests, including firing beanbag rounds into crowds.
Future Legal Action for Zimmerman
The Justice Department has confirmed that it is considering possible federal civil-rights charges against Zimmerman, but doing so would require the government to prove that the self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain’s profiling of Martin and the ensuing confrontation were both racially motivated. Juror B37’s claims that race wasn’t an issue and the lack of game-changing evidence could keep the DOJ from bringing charges, much less winning the case, according to officials.
Zimmerman could also find himself involved in two civil lawsuits, including one from Martin’s parents over their son’s death. And although Florida law stipulates that a defendant can be held liable even if he didn’t intend to cause the victim’s death, Zimmerman could invoke the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. If a judge accepts the defense, Zimmerman would be immune from civil penalties. His lawyers did not use that defense during the murder trial.
The final possible trial has already made its way into the courts. Zimmerman filed a civil lawsuit against NBC last year after the network edited the 911 tape to make it clearly appear that Zimmerman was profiling Martin based on his race. While nobody knows what will happen with this case, if NBC were to settle out of court in an attempt to avoid a costly defense while still accepting no responsibility, Zimmerman could seemingly walk away from Martin’s shooting with a clean sweep in court.