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Jurors 'put everything' into verdict

By Agencies in Miami, US | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-17 07:50

 Jurors 'put everything' into verdict

Demonstrators hold placards and shout slogans while marching in Los Angeles in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, on Monday. Civil rights activists and other leaders in California urged participants to remain peaceful as they express frustration with the trial's outcome. Frederic J. Brown / Agence France-Presse

Jurors 'put everything' into verdict

Three jurors in the trial of George Zimmerman initially favored convicting him of murder in the second degree or manslaughter, but the six-woman jury ultimately voted to acquit him in the killing of an unarmed black teenager after more closely examining the law, a juror in the case said on Monday.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, but the jury was also allowed to consider a manslaughter conviction.

The woman, known as Juror B37, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that when the jury began deliberations on Friday, they took an initial vote. Three jurors, including B37, were in favor of acquittal, two supported manslaughter and one backed second-degree murder. She said the jury started going through all the evidence, listening to tapes multiple times.

"That's why it took us so long," said B37, who said she planned to write a book about the trial but later had a change of heart.

When they started looking at the law, the person who initially supported a conviction for second-degree murder changed her vote to manslaughter, the juror said. Then they asked for clarification from the judge and went over it again and again. B37 said some jurors wanted to find Zimmerman guilty of something, but there was just no place to go, based on the law.

B37 said jurors cried when they gave their final vote to the bailiff.

"I want people to know that we put everything into everything to get this verdict," said the juror, whose face was blacked out during the televised interview but who appeared to become choked up.

Racial profiling claims

The interview came two days after the jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, where the teenager was visiting family. Martin was black, and Zimmerman, whose mother is Peruvian, identifies himself as Hispanic. Prosecutors accused Zimmerman of racially profiling Martin, and Zimmerman maintained he acted in self-defense.

Anger over his acquittal continued on Monday, with civil rights leaders saying mostly peaceful protests will continue with vigils and rallies in 100 cities on Saturday in front of federal buildings.

At least 13 protesters were arrested in Los Angeles late on Monday in a second night of unrest over Zimmerman's acquittal, officials said.

Businesses, including a Wal-Mart store, were damaged as some 150 people "sought to exploit" the outcome of the trial, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The US Justice Department said it is looking into Martin's death to determine whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, who is now a free man. His lawyer has told ABC News that Zimmerman will get his gun back and intends to arm himself again.

On Monday, US Attorney General Eric Holder called the killing of Martin a "tragic, unnecessary shooting", and said the Justice Department will follow "the facts and the law" as it reviews evidence to see whether federal criminal charges are warranted.

The key to filing civil rights charges against Zimmerman lies in whether evidence exists that he was motivated by racial animosity to kill Martin. Zimmerman's parents, Gladys and Robert Zimmerman Sr, told ABC News that their son isn't racist and that they don't know if he will ever be able to return to a normal life.

Right to self-defense

The US Justice Department opened an investigation into Martin's death last year but stepped aside to allow the state prosecution to proceed.

The February 2012 shooting drew national attention when Zimmerman wasn't arrested for weeks, and the case has continued to raise questions over race and self-defense gun laws.

Jurors were told that Zimmerman was allowed to use deadly force when he shot the teen not only if he actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he merely thought he did.

Juror B37, the only juror to speak publicly about the case so far, said on Monday that the actions of Zimmerman and Martin both led to the teenager's fatal shooting, but that Zimmerman didn't actually break the law.

While Zimmerman made some poor decisions leading up to the shooting, including leaving his car when police told him not to, Martin wasn't innocent either, the juror said.

"I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into," said the juror. "I think they both could have walked away."

The juror said she didn't think Martin's race was the reason that Zimmerman followed him on a dark, rainy night. She said she also believed Martin threw the first punch and that Zimmerman, whom she referred to as "George", had a right to defend himself.

"I have no doubt George feared for his life in the situation he was in at the time," the juror said.

The juror was not impressed by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was talking with Martin by cellphone moments before he was fatally shot by Zimmerman.

"I didn't think it was very credible, but I felt very sorry for her," the juror said. "She didn't want to be there."

Juror B37 told CNN that reaching a verdict was a difficult process. She said the instructions the judge gave jury weren't clear and the evidence was not presented in a clear order.

"We thought about it for hours and cried over it afterwards," she said. "I don't think any of us could ever do anything like that ever again."


(China Daily 07/17/2013 page12)

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