This weekend, people took to the streets in protest. George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, and people–and our nation, it seems–was outraged.
Juries get a lot of grief in our culture. People work hard to avoid sitting on one. They trade tips and tricks about how to shirk the civic responsibility of jury duty. Juries get the blame for almost every “bad” verdict in the news, from O.J. Simpson to last week’s case.
But I tell you, something very interesting happens in the jury room. I’ve read about it, seen it portrayed in books and in film, and my wife and I (collectively) have sat on three juries where we saw it happen.
Jurors may hate jury duty. They may hate lawyers. But when chosen, when empowered, when sworn in by oath, and when ushered into the jury room to deliberate, they have one thing in common.
Jurors mean business.
And so, when a jury of six in Florida came to the conclusion that there was reasonable doubt as to Zimmerman’s intent to unlawfully kill Trayvon Martin, I know it was a serious, considered verdict.
I know it wasn’t an easy decision. I know it wasn’t based on race. I know the jurors understood the gravity of the charges. I know they felt the weight of their responsibility, and knew their decision would affect the lives of those involved forever.
I stand with the jury.
Say what you want about the prosecution’s case or the defense’s arguments. Say that Florida has some crazy-ass laws that need to be repealed and changed. Say that we have too many guns. Say, as I say, that you wish we lived in a country where George Zimmerman had asked Trayvon if he needed a ride home to get out of the rain instead of presuming he was up to no good. Say again and again that race prejudice is a cancer that affects us all, and continue to say that we must work to remove race from our attitudes about people and individuals.
Say that, but do not say that the jury did not do their duty. The jury was there, in the courtroom, in the jury room, listening, weighing, considering. They were there. They heard it all. And it was they who received the instructions from the judge, instructions about the charges, the laws, and what they needed to decide.
I stand with the jury.