Juror says verdict wasn’t about race as Zimmerman verdict continues to stoke outrage

Community activist Najee Ali holds Skittles and an ice tea during a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.
JONATHAN ALCORN | REUTERS
Community activist Najee Ali holds Skittles and an ice tea during a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.
Posted July 16, 2013, at 7:50 a.m.
Last modified July 17, 2013, at 5:36 a.m.

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Los Angeles police arrest a woman after a peaceful protest supporting Trayvon Martin turned unlawful in the Leimert Park neighborhood Los Angeles, California, July 15, 2013. A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, setting free a man who had become a polarizing figure in the national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws.
JASON REDMOND | REUTERS
Los Angeles police arrest a woman after a peaceful protest supporting Trayvon Martin turned unlawful in the Leimert Park neighborhood Los Angeles, California, July 15, 2013. A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, setting free a man who had become a polarizing figure in the national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws.
Jovan Blacknell (R) and his son Justice attend a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.
JONATHAN ALCORN | REUTERS
Jovan Blacknell (R) and his son Justice attend a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.
A man holds a sign at Leimert Park during a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.
JONATHAN ALCORN | REUTERS
A man holds a sign at Leimert Park during a peaceful protest of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, in Los Angeles, California July 15, 2013.

SANFORD, Fla. — The six-woman jury that acquitted George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin was initially split down the middle, with half voting to acquit, two for manslaughter and one for second-degree murder, according to the first juror to speak publicly.

She was among those favoring acquittal, the juror told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday night.

Meanwhile, protests of the verdict continued across the country. In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched along Crenshaw Boulevard, stomping on cars, chasing bystanders and storming a Wal-Mart. Police made at least one arrest and warned they would make more if the mayhem continued. In Oakland, protesters flooded onto Interstate 880 toward the end of rush hour, blocking traffic until lanes were cleared a short while later.

The juror identified in court as B37 appeared on CNN with her face obscured, saying she wanted to be “cautious.”

Earlier in the day, a literary agent announced that the juror had signed a deal to write a book about the trial. On CNN, the juror said she had spoken out and signed the deal with her husband, a lawyer, because she wanted the world to know how hard the sequestered jury worked, taking time to review evidence and testimony for nearly 60 witnesses during the five-week trial.

“We didn’t just go in there and say, we’re going to come in here and do guilty, not guilty — we thought about it for hours, and cried over it afterward. I don’t think any of us could do anything like that ever again,” she said. Jurors deliberated about 16 hours before reaching their verdict Saturday night.

Prosecutors had argued that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whom they portrayed as a “wannabe cop,” profiled the unarmed Martin, 17, attacked him and then lied, claiming he acted in self-defense.

Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies as Latino.

The juror, who is white, said that during more than 16 hours of deliberations she and the others — one Latina and four other whites — came to believe Zimmerman’s account of events the night of February 26, 2012: that Martin attacked him, that Zimmerman feared for his life and that he fired to defend himself. Race never entered into their deliberations, she said.

The juror told CNN she believed Sanford’s lead police investigator, who testified that he thought Zimmerman was telling the truth about being threatened that night. She also said she believed the voice heard screaming on a 911 tape was Zimmerman’s.

“After hours and hours of deliberating over the law and going over and over, we decided there was no other way to go. … He had a right to defend himself,” she said.

Asked whether she felt sorry for Martin, the juror replied, “I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry for Trayvon, and the situation he was in, and I feel sorry for George because of the situation he got himself in.”

Cooper said CNN did not pay the juror to appear.

So far, the other jurors have not granted interviews. Their names remained under seal Monday.

Anger over the verdict continued, with calls for the Justice Department to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Nearly 1.1 million supporters have signed a petition sponsored by the NAACP calling on the Justice Department to take action against Zimmerman and “address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.”

The department has an ongoing investigation into the shooting. In a speech to a largely African-American sorority Monday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did not indicate when a decision would be made.

“The Justice Department shares your concern. I share your concern,” said Holder, who was to address the NAACP national convention in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday.

For the government to mount a federal case alleging civil rights violations, the bar is high — such charges are usually brought against a law enforcement agency, not an individual.

In Orlando, NAACP President and Chief Executive Benjamin Todd Jealous told the vocal crowd on the first day of its five-day national convention, “These are times of great possibility, but also times of great peril” that demand courage and action.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Jealous — the father of two — said Zimmerman’s acquittal brought him to tears.

“When I heard that … the first thing I did was walk over to my son’s crib and lift him up, and I listened to him breathe,” Jealous recalled. “And then I began to cry. No one can explain to me how, if this young boy was white, somebody wouldn’t be in prison right now.”

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump told the convention that he had spoken with Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, the morning after the verdict.

“Sybrina said she cried, she prayed, she cried some more and then she got up and went to church that morning,” Crump said. “And when she came home from church, she called me up and said, ‘Mr. Crump, I will not let this verdict define Trayvon. … We’ve got a long way to go so this won’t happen to anybody else’s child.’ ”

Crump has said Martin’s family is considering a civil suit against Zimmerman, who was not charged until the governor appointed a special prosecutor several weeks after the killing.

Although protests of the verdict have been largely peaceful, some arrests have been made — including nine in Los Angeles on Sunday night and at least one Monday night.

Protesters held a vigil for Martin in Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Monday. Afterward, several marchers moved along Crenshaw Boulevard chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

The Los Angeles Police Department declared a tactical alert about 9 p.m., which means that off-duty officers can be held on duty when their shifts end and may respond only to high-priority calls.

Police estimated that 80 to 150 people were engaged in lawless activity along Crenshaw, with some jumping on top of vehicles and appearing to assault bystanders. Some protesters ignited fireworks in the middle of Crenshaw.

Protests were also held in New York; Baltimore; Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; Atlanta and Minneapolis. At a rally in Cleveland earlier in the day, protesters threw Skittles — the candy Martin had bought the night he was shot.

Zimmerman, now 29, spotted Martin walking back from a convenience store and called police to report him as a suspicious person. Eventually he got out of his car, a confrontation ensued, and Martin wound up dead.

Zimmerman’s family says his life has been irrevocably altered. His parents told ABC’s Barbara Walters on Monday that they had received death threats and had been unable to talk to their son much since the verdict.

“To tell you the truth, we don’t trust anything, not even the phones,” Gladys Zimmerman said.

“We have had an enormous amount of death threats. George’s legal counsel has had death threats, the police chief of Sanford, many people have had death threats,” Robert Zimmerman said.

The Zimmermans said they don’t know if they or their son will ever be able to rebuild their lives.

“We have lost everything, everything,” Gladys Zimmerman said. “The whole family, not only George.”

Sanford has remained quiet since the verdict. On Monday, an interfaith prayer service drew the mayor, police chief, pastors, other leaders and a crowd of about 70 people, mostly black.

A dozen pastors lined the altar at New Life Word Center church near downtown Sanford for the noon service — five white, the rest black, a nod to the racial unity they have been working to achieve in the wake of the shooting.

Together they prayed for the Martin and Zimmerman families.

“We know this trial has polarized much of the nation, so we’re going to pray for racial reconciliation,” said the Rev. R.W. Merthie.

Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett, who is white, credited local ministers with helping keep the peace, and said police were working to build better relationships with the community.

Local police said there had been no violence related to the verdict. Police Chief Cecil Smith, who was appointed after the shooting and is black, thanked the community “for being an example to everyone around this nation.”

“We can’t change the verdict,” Smith said as he left church. “But we can change the city of Sanford.”

Distributed by MCT Information Services

 

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