This morning, as ABC airs its full interview with juror B29 in the George Zimmerman case for the first time, Trayvon Martin’s mother says the juror’s most explosive comment, that Zimmerman “got away with murder,” is “devastating” for their family.
A portion of ABC’s interview with juror B29, a 36-year-old nursing assistant and mother of eight named Maddy, aired last night and has already generated considerable controversy.
Juror B29′s revelations about the Zimmerman case
This morning, the full interview revealed more about the jury’s deliberations, juror B29′s views on the case, and how well the jury verdict reflected an impartial view of the law. We also learned that she is of Puerto Rican descent and, until recently, lived in Chicago.
Juror B29 says that her first vote in the jury room was for second-degree murder, and that she considered holding out for a hung jury. She explained that she was convinced that Zimmerman was guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, and suggested that other members of the jury felt similarly. And she says she worries about her decision to go along with an acquittal, and when thinking about Trayvon Martin’s family, feels “like I let them down.”
Strikingly, “Maddy” even goes so far as to say that “I’m hurting as much as Trayvon’s mother, because there’s no way that any mother should feel that pain.”
In the end, though, juror B29 remains convinced that she, and the other jurors, made the right decision under the law. In particular, she says the jury wasn’t presented with compelling evidence that Zimmerman had the requisite intent to kill his victim.
What juror B29 tells us about the legal system
The overall impression that juror B29 leaves of the judicial system, and of her deliberations, is a highly positive one. This is exactly the sort of juror that we should want the judicial system to have.
Juror B29 believed that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, and was morally responsible for that death, and yet she was able to set aside those feelings and weigh a verdict based on the law and the evidence. At the same time, there’s no indication that she used that formal process as an excuse to let Zimmerman off the hook, or to allow racial stereotypes to guide her thinking.
Importantly, the verdict, at least in her thought process, didn’t hinge on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law or, at least directly, on self-defense, but on a far more mundane, yet essential, protection for any criminal defendant: proof of criminal intent.
As devastating as it may be for many people to see George Zimmerman walk free because of a lack of evidence that he intended to kill Trayvon Martin, and as much as juror B29 may not be the only one to think that Zimmerman is morally responsible for that death, the legal requirement of criminal intent is an essential safeguard in our judicial system. While the requirement of intent can, like many other procedural safeguards, be misused by those who are prejudiced, it is also a critical protection for those who find themselves sitting in a courtroom facing criminal charges. And procedural protections like this are especially important for those who may face prejudice, suspicion, or even selective prosecution in the judicial system, which has often been the case in this country for black defendants.
Here is the full interview, as it aired on ABC’s Good Morning America this morning: