By Alan Bean
A week ago I wrote two posts related to the composition of the jury in the George Zimmerman case. In the first, I said that common sense suggested that the defendant would be found guilty of manslaughter. The prosecution had only Zimmerman’s description of the altercation between the two men to work with and that made Murder 2 a tough sell. But the fact that none of the six jurors looked like the victim in this story troubled me. My fear was that the jurors would understand why Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin’s presence in the neighborhood suspicious and potentially dangerous. A single Black juror would have challenged this identification and argued for another way of reading the story.
My second post (which also appeared in the Associated Baptist Press) argued that the jury, though conscientious and well-intentioned, lacked the social experience and the cultural competency to sift through a blizzard of legal considerations.
Most readers who bothered to comment were unimpressed. Some felt that race had no bearing on this case, so the racial composition of the jury didn’t matter. Others insisted that Zimmerman received what the Constitution guarantees: a jury of his peers.
As Bill Stuntz observed shortly before his death, Black jurors are commonly tried by predominantly White juries who are inclined to side with authority figures like police officers and prosecutors and subject to racial bias. (more…)