Much has been said about the recent trial of George Zimmerman, charged with killing teen-ager Trayvon Martin in Florida more than year ago. Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges. For those who felt that he has used deadly force against an un-armed teenager, this verdict has caused shock and dis-belief. But for those who were in the courtroom as the testimony and evidence came in, the shock may have been somewhat less. The jury has been criticized by those who feel Zimmerman should have been convicted of something. It’s important to understand how juries are selected. Each side – the prosecution and the defense – has an opportunity to screen potential jurors for signs of prejudice or inability to render a judgment. They winnow down the jury pool one by one. Eventually, they have to compromise on the final jurors. I would assume that if the prosecution might have preferred an all-black jury, feeling that those of the same race as Martin, would have been more likely to rule against Zimmerman. By the same token, the defense might have preferred a jury of all white or Hispanic men, assuming they might have stood up for Zimmerman. But the jury they ended up with was five white women and one black woman. One can only assume that the prosecution and the defense felt that these women would listen to the evidence in the most impartial manner possible, and render a verdict that was fair to both sides. The trial did NOT end in a hung jury, where one or more jurors were holding out against the majority on the panel. That happens lots of times. But in this case, it was a unanimous verdict, as all verdicts must be. They worked on the verdict for more than a day, indicating that they took the job seriously, and had serious discussions about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. It does not appear that they had all made up their minds before going into the jury room, which is the proper way to proceed. It reminded me of the O.J. Simpson case, where a jury found Simpson not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife and another person, both of whom were white. It seemed to many people that Simpson was guilty. But what mattered most was: what the jury decided. And the jury found him not guilty. Case over. The same ought to be true in the case of George Zimmerman. A tragic encounter occurred. A young man died. A man was charged and stood trial in open court. A jury of five white women and one black woman, found him not guilty. Case over. That‘s this week’s editorial.
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