Juror: George Zimmerman had right to defend himself
10:07 PM, Jul 15, 2013
5:30 AM, Jul 16, 2013
MIAMI - Three jurors in George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial initially favored convicting him of that offense 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 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 also was allowed to consider manslaughter.
The woman, known as Juror B37, told CNN's Anderson Cooper that when the jury began deliberations 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 wanted 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.
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. While prosecutors accused Zimmerman of profiling Martin, Zimmerman maintained he acted in self-defense.
Anger over Zimmerman's acquittal continued Monday, with civil rights leaders saying mostly peaceful protests will continue with vigils and rallies in 100 cities Saturday in front of federal buildings.
In Los Angeles, several hundred mostly peaceful protesters gathered Monday night at Leimert Park southwest of downtown, many of them chanting, praying and singing.
But a smaller group of about 100 people splintered off and began blocking traffic on nearby Crenshaw Boulevard, some of them jumping on cars and breaking windows. Several protesters ran into a Wal-Mart store, where they knocked down displays before store security chased them out.
The 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.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday 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 their son will ever be able to return to a normal life.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday said Obama would not involve himself in decisions by the Justice Department on whether to pursue civil rights charges against Zimmerman because it would inappropriate.
The 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 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 it was a difficult process in reaching a verdict. She said the jury instructions from the judge weren't immediately clear and the evidence was in no order whatsoever.
"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."
Martin Literary Management announced Monday that it was representing B37 and her husband, who is an attorney. The names of the jurors have not been released, but during jury selection it was disclosed that B37 works in an unspecified management position and has two adult children.
But agency head Sharlene Martin released a statement late Monday saying she was no longer representing the juror and that the juror had dropped the book idea. It included a statement that she said was crafted in conjunction with the agency in which the juror explained that being sequestered had kept her shielded "from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of the case." The juror said that the book was meant to show that our justice system "can get so complicated that it creates a conflict with our `spirit' of justice."
The Associated Press was unable to reach the juror.
In a separate interview, Jeantel was asked by CNN's Piers Morgan whether she thought race was a factor in Zimmerman's decision to follow Martin prior to their fight.
"It was racial," she said. "Let's be honest. Racial. If he were white, if Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, what would happen?"
Morgan played back a recording of the juror's comments to CNN about Jeantel's education level and speech, and the witness said it made her sad and angry. Jeantel, who is black, said she also had a feeling that the jury would return a not-guilty verdict.
With many critics angry over Zimmerman's acquittal, his freedom may be limited. He may also face a civil lawsuit from Martin's family.
"He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life," his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr. told CNN.
Despite the racially charged nature of the case, race was barely mentioned at the trial.
Prosecutors portrayed Zimmerman as a vigilante who had grown frustrated by break-ins in his neighborhood committed primarily by young black men. Defense attorneys said Martin knocked Zimmerman down and was slamming the older man's head against the sidewalk when Zimmerman fired his gun.
The court did not release the racial and ethnic makeup of the six-person jury, but the panel appeared to reporters to be made up of five white women and a sixth who may be Hispanic.