Americas

Monday 28 July 2014

Half of jury 'thought George Zimmerman was guilty'

Philip Sherwell

Published 16/07/2013|21:40

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George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after Zimmerman's not guilty verdict was read in Seminole Circuit Court
George Zimmerman leaves court with his family after Zimmerman's not guilty verdict was read in Seminole Circuit Court

Three of the six jurors in the George Zimmerman trial believed that he was guilty of murder or manslaughter when they retired to consider their verdict, one of the all-female panel has admitted.

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 The juror, who appeared on CNN in silhouette to maintain her anonymity, disclosed how the three were talked out of convicting Mr Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, during more than 16 hours of deliberations.

Her comments will stoke further controversy after she described how jurors found the laws "very confusing" and struggled to follow the judge's instructions.

During jury selection, the same woman described the dead teen as “boy of colour” and called the killing “an unfortunate incident that happened”.

She also appeared to display sympathy for Mr Zimmerman, whom she frequently referred to as George, and disparaged the chief prosecution witness as lacking credibility because of poor education and communication skills.

Protests against the verdict continued for a third night and turned violent in Los Angeles. Plans for demonstrations in more than 100 cities this weekend were unveiled as civil rights leaders increased pressure on the justice department to bring hate crime charges against Mr Zimmerman.

"We lost the battle, but the war is not over and we intend to fight on," said Al Sharpton, the black activist preacher. "But we urge all those participating with us to do so non-violently and peacefully."

Mr Zimmerman, 29, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, shot dead 17-year-old Trayvon after calling police because he thought the teen was acting suspiciously as he walked home through a gated community in Sanford, Florida.

The accused man was cleared after defence lawyers argued he had shot Trayvon in self-defence after the schoolboy attacked him.

The case has unleashed a polarising national debate about racial profiling, guns and self-defence. Unlike in Britain, jury members in the US are allowed to discuss their deliberations after the verdict.

The juror, known only by her panel identity of B37, said that when the judge sent them out, she was one of three who supported clearing Mr Zimmerman. Two others believed he was guilty of manslaughter and one of second-degree murder.

She said Mr Zimmerman was "a man whose heart was in the right place," but believed that he did not show good judgment and should have stayed in his car when asked to do so by a police dispatcher rather than following Trayvon.

"I think both of them are responsible for the situation they had got themselves into," she said. "I think both of them could have walked away."

Ultimately however, "I have no doubt that George feared for his life ... He had a right to defend himself."

A literary agent earlier announced that the middle-aged mother-of-two had signed up to write a book about the trial with her husband, a lawyer. But B37 has now dropped that plan.

The singer Stevie Wonder meanwhile announced during a concert in Canada that he will boycott Florida and all other states with “stand your ground” laws that heavily favour self-defence cases in shootings.

Telegraph.co.uk

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