Early on, Circuit Judge Debra Nelson handed the prosecution a critical blow when she ruled that ‘racial profiling’ could not be mentioned during the trial, limiting the State Attorney to only ‘profiling’ despite Zimmerman’s racially charged statements to the 911 operator.
Given juror B37’s unexpected timing and desire for public exposure with a lengthy public interviews with CNN’s Anderson Cooper as well as the refutation of her statements by four other jurors, it is also proper to consider her role in shaping the ultimate not guilty verdict. Originally expressing surprise at the national demonstrations of outrage protesting the unfairness of the verdict and public cynicism at the failure of the judicial system, B37 stepped forward to make a multitude of stunning admissions. With considerable public attention focused on her, juror B37 announced a deal with a literary agent contacted on a Sunday afternoon to write a memoir with her attorney-husband about the trial. Then, just as quickly, announced the next day that she would not be pursuing a literary career, perhaps with the forewarning that some of her juror peers were coming forward to dispute, in general terms, her version of events.
One of six jurors, there is a reasonable question as to how the prosecution passed on B37 to allow her to be seated when most professional jury selection consultants would have quickly raised red flags not just regarding her enigmatic responses but also displaying a less than open and inquiring mind. See voir dire video here. For instance, it could be argued that a distinct political bias existed as B37 repeated three times during voir dire that Sanford experienced ‘rioting’ which never occurred. In a considerable stretch of credulity, she stated that she never, not once, not to her attorney husband or her two adult daughters (one of whom lives at home) expressed any opinion or discussed any of the events that were occurring in the community at the time and that no family member ever expressed an opinion to her. Based on B37’s recent CNN interview, her earlier commitment to both defense attorney Mark O’Mara and assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda during voir dire that she had not formed an opinion in the case, had not been influenced or had any predisposition either way is now in serious doubt.
If, in fact, B37 was as uninformed as she claimed, where did she get the idea that rioting had occurred?
While she was encouraging the prosecution and defense to believe that she was a totally disinterested citizen who would be an unbiased juror and stressed her availability to be sequestered, we now know that B37 emerged during her Cooper interviews speaking authoritatively about the legal implications of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law and was considerably more opinionated than she had been during voir dire; thus, now unencumbered by the need for neutrality to parrot virtually every “theory of defense’ element used by Zimmerman’s attorneys.
We don’t yet know exactly what it was in her statements that prompted four other jurors to publicly distance themselves from B37’s media grab but it has raised questions as to her leadership during jury deliberations including her new-found assertiveness, a marked departure from her more reserved yet prickly style during voir dire. Still unknown is which juror served as “foreman’ but if it was B37, that would account for her assuming a public platform as if spokesperson for the entire jury as well as having encouraged her to assume an influential role during deliberation.
More explicit detail on B37’s assertion that the jury spent ‘hours deliberating over the law’ including her follow up “that’s how we got to the point of everybody being not guilty” is a crucial statement and might shed light on how and why three jurors originally in favor of a guilty verdict turned around to acquit Zimmerman. Unless one of the other jurors has an attack of conscience to clear the public record, we may never know whether B37 was a ringer right out of John Grisham’s Runaway Jury or simply a bored housewife desirous of writing a best seller or whether her attorney co-author husband might have influenced her participation and the final verdict in any way.
Confused Jury instructions have been cited as leading the jurors to acquit Zimmerman as another of Judge Nelson ‘s rulings from the bench benefitted the defense when she withdrew the ‘first aggressor’ instruction which could have allowed the jury to find Zimmerman the ‘initial aggressor’; thereby denying his claim of self-defense.