Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jury make-up in murder trials like George Zimmerman's

Chauncey DeVega evokes the pre-Civil War slave patros in the title of his post, If Trayvon Martin Had His Slave Pass Maybe He Would Still be Alive: Black Life is Cheap Again, George Zimmerman is Found "Innocent" of Murder WARN 07/13/2013. And he addresses the problem of what seems to have been an all-white jury:

A year or so ago, I predicted that George Zimmerman would be found innocent. If police can shoot and kill innocent black people for the "crime" of holding house keys, wallets, cell phones, and other harmless objects, Zimmerman's walking away from this show trial spectacle was a given.

The jurors have to return home to a community with a long, deep history of white supremacy and anti-black racism. The demonic shadows of Jim and Jane Crow were in George Zimmerman's ear that night, telling him to shoot and kill those "fucking punks" that "always get away". Those punks weren't vague chimeras or generic "bad guys". No. They are black men. On that evening, George Zimmerman did the (White) community's will of his being a 21st century slave patroller hunting down and killing black folks.

Instead of the mark on the cheek or a brand on some other part of the body, Martin was marked as fit for surveillance, harassment, and murder by George Zimmerman because the latter wore a "hoodie" and was black, breathing, and nearby.

In all, the Zimmerman jury simply agreed with their own racial "common sense" about black people, our inherent criminality, and threat to white civilization and order. The jury bowed down to their community norms. They could not, nor would they go home, to their white peers in a very conservative, white, segregated community, and justify how could they send one of their "defenders" to prison for the petty crime of killing a black person. [my emphasis]
There was a discussion this morning on Up with Steve Kornacki on how the use of six-member juries in Florida (capital and some other cases have 12-person juries) reduces the chances that even a single black person will wind up on a jury. Maya Wiley of the Center for Social Inclusion of the guests referred to studies showing that having just one African-American juror makes it far less likely for a jury to be swayed by racial prejudice against blacks in the verdict.

This is another part of the discussion; video is below because for some reason the video embed throws off my formatting after the video.

My transcript, considerably adapted from the MSNBC trancript, which as of this writing is pretty poor:

Maya Wiley: I think this is a really important conversation. Because I think our rule of law is extremely important. I think that there are many things wrong with the justice system. So saying that we have to recognize that six human beings in a very difficult case, right? - emotionally difficult, huge amounts of public pressure, they were going to be denigrated no matter the verdict because there was going to be some side of the American public that were going to say, they were absolutely wrong. So that's why, more because - I'm, I'm taking a more human approach to this and saying, I think it is important to humanize those jurors and say, we need to let them go on and live their lives.

The issue is what we have to fix about the system. We have to fix the fact that Florida has six jurors on a murder case. We have to fix the fact that six jurors means we're not going to have fair representation. And that because race still matters in America, it does matter what the racial makeup is of jurors. That's the conversation I'm totally outraged about. I don't want to personalize it to those individual jurors.

Joy Reid of But at the same time I think that, and we never, we always talked about the, the verdict in the context of how African-Americans would view it and absorb it. But we completely forgot there was this whole other context. I mean, these are white women living in a majority white town, one of them Hispanic, but, you know, mostly white women living in a town that is that is conservative, that is pro-Zimmerman, at least among the white resident of Sanford. The, the home they were going back to, the community they were getting absorbed back into, this is the verdict that, that was more comfortable for that community.

So they, you know, the social pressures on them were the opposite of the social pressures that we were all talking about. You're talking about a town where people by and large are pro-gun or gun owners, all of the prosecutors and the defendant, we're talking about Republicans, conservatives, Angela Corey, a conservative Republican. So this is, this was an issue where most of their community, the peers, their peers, were on the side they landed on. [my emphasis in bold]
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