One of the George Zimmerman jurors, identified as Juror B29, gave an interview to ABC News on Thursday that some news outlets treated as a blockbuster. The juror, whose first name is Maddy, was quoted as saying that Zimmerman “got away with murder.” (Some observers said that if you watch the unedited footage of the interview, which is available online, the suggestion that Zimmerman got away with murder was offered by one of the ABC interviewers and repeated by the former juror.) She also said that “in our hearts we felt he was guilty.” At the same time, Juror B29 said that the evidence just wasn’t there to convict, and she believed the prosecution never should have been brought. Then again, despite that admitted lack of evidence, Maddy told the interviewers that she was the one who held out for a second degree murder conviction–despite the lack of substantial evidence, apparently.
How important were these revelations? In my opinion, not important at all. Juror remorse is very common. When a jury begins to deliberate, there are nearly always some jurors on both sides. The jurors deliberate, review the evidence, and argue about what it means. Over time, the majority usually wears down the minority to produce a unanimous verdict; sometimes, however, the minority ultimately wins over the majority. It isn’t just a matter of numbers: the jurors who make the better case, based on the evidence, are the most persuasive. And the most intelligent jurors, who have paid the most attention and have the best command of the facts, become leaders in the deliberation. Typically in a hard-fought case, it takes a day or two, sometimes longer, for the initially warring parties to be reconciled and for a verdict to be reached.
Often, the story doesn’t end there. State laws vary, but in many states, not only can jurors give interviews to the press, but the lawyers can interview the jurors after the verdict has been returned. In major cases, it is common for lawyers on the losing side to contact jurors who they think were on their side, and ask them what happened. This is where we get to juror remorse: often, the juror will revert to his or her original view of the case, and say that he or she was never really convinced that the other side was right. Jurors will sometimes give lawyers ammunition to try to impeach a verdict in which, just days if not hours before, they joined. I have seen this in my own cases.
But the backsliding juror is one who failed to carry the day. His or her arguments were insufficient; the evidence didn’t provide him or her with enough ammunition to prevail. This is what we see with Juror B29. She admits that the evidence didn’t support a conviction; that being the case, we can only wonder why she held out for a conviction as long as she did. She says that the jurors thought Zimmerman was guilty “in their hearts.” No doubt she was speaking only for her own heart, but the salient point is that when you feel something in your heart, despite a lack of evidence, you are indulging a bias or prejudice. That is nothing to be proud of.
Listening to the contradictory and not very intelligent musings of Juror B29, we are reminded of the virtues of the jury system. There is a reason why we empanel a group of individuals, ranging in size from six to twelve, to decide a civil or criminal case. There is wisdom in the group: jurors bring different experiences and perspectives to bear; biases and preconceptions tend to cancel each other out; a vital evidentiary point that was missed by one juror likely was caught by others; the process of debate and deliberation sifts the facts and, much more often than not, leads to a just result. When you see a single juror being interviewed after a trial (or when you interview one yourself, as I have done) you often wonder how he or she could have been part of a group that rendered (usually) such a sensible verdict. The answer is, there is far more wisdom in most juries than resides in any one of its members.
All of which explains why, in my opinion, Juror B29’s partial recantation is neither unusual nor of any significance. It is a typical case of juror remorse. It will, of course, be woven into the revisionist Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman narrative. As usual, liberals will not accept defeat in their persecution of Zimmerman, but will continue to insist on an alternate reality, divorced from the evidence that was presented in the courtroom, until their fiction becomes the new truth. We are seeing this effort on a daily basis. Whether it can ultimately succeed, only time will tell.
PAUL ADDS: I agree with John’s analysis. I would add that typically there is a certain solemnity to jury deliberations — most jurors really take to heart their duty to evaluate the evidence impartially and render the right verdict.
In an ordinary case, the solemnity carries over into interviews with jurors shortly after the verdict. They still have their “game face” on at that point.
But with time, jurors revert back to being normal people with normal prejudices. And in a high profile case, I would expect the solemnity to fade quickly, once a juror returns to his or her cultural milieu and begins reading about the reaction to the case “on the street.”
Juror B29 was probably thrown back on her heels by the vituperative reaction of the minority community. Hence, the remorse.
But so far, she is sticking to her guns, insisting that the evidence wasn’t there to convict and the prosecution never should have been brought.
This makes the left’s effort to “relitigate” the case more difficult. But I expect the left to prevail in selling its alternative reality because leftists will beat the drum for as long as is necessary, while the rest of us move on.