The image of a murder trial jury often times gives the image from 12 Angry Men, a group holed up, cut off from contact from the outside world, with the weight of life or death hanging over their heads as they decide the fate of the person on trial. However, in the case of the Zimmerman trial, the revelations are of steak dinners, fancy pedicures and trips to local museums, all on the taxpayer dime.
Florida jury service pays $30 per day (or less). Even if the jurors only work 6 hours per day, they’re earning less than minimum wage. But the Zimmerman jury was sequestered, meaning that they are essentially unable to leave and go home when they’re “not working.” I’m pretty sure a liberal/progressive site like Addicting Info wouldn’t accept that hourly wage or those working conditions from any other employer.
Yet when the State of Florida tries to show the jurors a little courtesy, and provides them with room-and-board and some entertainment, Downes calls it “pampering”:
The decision to pamper the jury was undertaken for a myriad of reasons. As one Florida attorney, Randy Reep, pointed out:
These women of course are not criminals, yet we took them from their families. While we did not say this then, now it is clear, half of the country is going to very vocally find fault with your dedicated effort. A Bloomin Onion at Outback would not adequately reimburse these women for the bitterness [some will level at them for their jury service.]
In a statement by the Sheriff’s office, this was elaborated upon:
Jurors watched television and movies, exercised at the hotel fitness center, and spent weekends being visited by family and friends.
Hold on a second. The Sheriff’s office did not take them away from their families, they had access to them over the weekend!
That the Sheriff’s office says they had access over the weekend implies that they did not have access to their families during the week. In other words, the court “took them from their families” for five days at a time. That’s still a bit of a hardship for a lot of people. I don’t know why Downes has trouble understanding this, but instead of seeing this as the court trying to offer some courtesy to the jurors, Downes imagines something sinister:
However, they were carefully monitored to prevent jury tampering at least, right? To verify this statement, AI’s own Dr. Mark Bear contacted them, telling us:
Just verified with Heather Smith, from the Seminole Country Sheriff’s Office at 407-474-6259. She states, “Generally speaking, jurors serving on the Zimmerman trial were afforded two hours of visiting privileges with family of friends each weekend.” I asked what she meant by generally speaking,” and she states, “there were more opportunities afforded jurors but not all took advantage.”
So, these visits were unsupervised.
Right. Because jurors aren’t criminals. They weren’t accused of child abuse or domestic violence. Of course they were allowed to visit with their families without having court deputies present.
WFTV has dug into these visits, and what they found calls into question the verdict. As WFTV’s legal analyst, Bill Sheaffer, points out:
It only takes two seconds for an inappropriate comment to be made to a juror by a family member inadvertently or otherwise to possibly affect the verdict, how they look at the case.
Well, sure, that sort of thing is always possible in a jury trial. If the jurors are allowed contact with other people, those people could say something to them about the case. But that’s true of every jury trial, yet it’s fairly rare for a court to sequester the jury. It’s usually done to protect jurors’ privacy and to keep them from seeing media coverage or being mobbed by activists and protesters, not to deny them access to close family members.
In most cases, jury duty is like any other job: You show up on time in the morning, take a break for lunch, then when the trial is done for the day you go home, hang out with your friends and family, and get a good night’s sleep so you can return to the court bright and early the next morning.
Contrary to what Downes is implying, the unusual thing about the Zimmerman jury is not that jurors had access to their families, but that their access to their families was so severely limited.
The potential book was always intended to be a respectful observation of the trial from my and my husband’s perspectives…
Her husband holding a perspective strong enough to write a book on the subject, given unsupervised access during the trial to his wife on the jury.
What the heck does “her husband holding a perspective strong enough to write a book on the subject” even mean? It’s not her husband’s book — who’d want to buy that? He’s just helping her, and she wants to include his thoughts on the case. Why? I don’t know, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that her husband is a lawyer. He could probably help her out a with some of the legal stuff, wouldn’t you think?
If you’re not yet convinced that Downes is deranged, consider that in the sentence immediately before the one he quotes, juror B37 explains her decision not to write the book:
I realize it was necessary for our jury to be sequestered in order to protest our verdict from unfair outside influence, but that isolation shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case.
In other words, despite the regular unsupervised meetings with her husband, she had no idea of the level of controversy raging in the media about the trial. That would make sense if she and her husband were avoiding talking about the case.
But we’re supposed to believe they must have discussed the case because…why? Just because she decided to write a book about it? That crap pisses me off. I was a juror in a criminal trial a few years ago, and after it was over, you know what I did? I wrote about it. I posted a series of blog posts about my experience as a juror just because I thought people might want to know what it was like. I even knew before the trial that I would probably blog about it afterwards. I have trouble seeing how juror B37’s book deal was any different, other than being more work and paying better.
(If I’m ever picked for another criminal trial, I’m not sure I’d blog about it again, especially if it were a bigger case. After writing all that, I felt a little too exposed. And people are more internet savvy these days, so there’s a bigger chance of a run-in with someone involved in the trial. As it is, one of the prosecutors stumbled across my account of the trial and recognized it, even though I had changed the names of people and locations. We’re Facebook friends now.)
Look, I don’t know if the jury reached the right decision given the evidence presented to them (although a lot of criminal lawyers seem to think the state’s case was weak), and I certainly have no way of knowing if juror B37 or her husband did something wrong. But if she did, Downes hasn’t presented a bit of real evidence to prove it. Such evidence may emerge someday, but he hasn’t got a thing right now.
(Hat tip: Steve Marmel, who would probably disagree with everything I wrote.)