When Jurors think “What’s in it for me?”, the System Fails…

trial_by_jury_usherI try diligently to stay true to my purpose for this blog and only rarely do I stray from the intended content.  However, today I feel that I want to make an exception.  Personally, I try very hard not to be overly judgmental in my life.  If anyone tells you that it is easy to reserve judgments I will be the first one standing in objection.  We are all raised, in one way or another, to form judgments to the world around us.  Whether it is judgments about our personal paths that we’ve chosen or about the habits that we see in the people that we meet throughout our life path; we are all placed in a seat of judgment, both giving and receiving.  How can we not be and actually run our lives with any clarity or forethought?  However, the thing about judgment is that it can become clouded by the opinion of others, and that is where our troubles begin.  When you are a juror and you are more concerned with how this case will profit you, then you are a huge part of the problem.

I personally did not keep daily tabs on the George Zimmerman trial.  I didn’t have to; it was spread out everywhere throughout the media, cyberspace and Facebook pages spanning the globe.  I would read some of the media’s interpretation along with bloggists who were outraged at one side or the other.  I eventually formed my own conclusion; or judgment if you will. 

What first sticks out with me in this particular case is the fact that a “juror” already has a book deal in the works.  I truly believe that if you sit on a jury, you are doing a public service and in no way should have the right to profit from that duty.  I believe that it taints the jury pool and truly is an injustice to both the victims of crimes and those being tried.  By virtue of the fact that we know that a juror in this particular trial, obviously had a deal in the works prior to the verdict, is outrageous and in my eyes, cause for a retrial.

I can think of many incidents over the past couple decades where guilty people were proclaimed innocent by a jury of their peers, where a juror would profit from “their story”.  Let’s review.  We had Casey Anthony, whose daughter would go missing for over thirty days before Ms. Anthony would let anyone know that the small child was missing.  This child would be found dead, the evidence was glaring, yet she was found innocent.  The interesting side note is that Juror, Carol Lee Kosis, is selling her “from a Juror’s Point of View” story everywhere online. We also had Robert Blake, who was accused of killing his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley in 2001.  Within hours of the jury deciding Mr. Blake’s fate, one of that trial’s jurors, Roberto Emerick, was peddling a CD on “Larry King Live” of six songs he composed as he sat on the jury.  I’m sure he was riveted by the testimony that he wasn’t hearing.  Last but not least, let us remember OJ Simpson who was found innocent of killing his wife and a friend back in 1994.  Michael Knox was allowed by the court to write his book chronicling his journey as a juror in the trial of the century.  Mr. Knox was dismissed for lying about his criminal record (he had been previously been arrested for kidnapping his girlfriend) and published his manuscript while the trial was still ongoing. The publisher was subpoenaed; the book sold more than 350,000 copies. Armanda Cooley, the foreman of the jury that would find OJ Simpson innocent has also collaborated with other jurors that was published in January 1996, three months after the verdict.  Books are not written in a matter of months; most take a year or more so this leads me to the judgment that this book was a work in progress during the actual trial.  How does one keep their concentration on the facts of a trial, while contemplating a book in their heads?

What I also see is two families that will never be the same.  No matter how this case came out there were never going to be any winners.  Mr. Zimmerman is far from being a victor.  He may have his “freedom” but he, like Casey Anthony, will be an outcast in society until the day they die.  Neither will be able to live a “free” life.  They will wake up every day knowing that there is a world out there that hates their existence and would rather see them gone from this world as opposed to breathing our air.  To me this is not a life, and therefore, I don’t believe that Mr. Zimmerman won anything.  Let me ponder this.  Which would I prefer; being under the protection of guards and a prison system with a half-ass chance of survival, being provided with three squares a day; or would I prefer having to watch my back every single minute of my life; never being able to get a good job (if any) and never being able to just relax out of fear that someone is peering through a bush ready to blow my ass away?  I think I would rather take my chances in prison.  I personally can’t put myself in the juror’s shoes and know why they chose to declare Mr. Zimmerman innocent; but what I do know is that karma has a way of balancing the scales.  Your past A.L.W.A.Y.S. comes back to haunt you and set the record straight; and this goes for jurors who weren’t there as a public servant but as an opportunistic, “what’s in it for me” personality searching only for a way to make a name for themselves.  I believe in freedom of speech and freedom of press, however, I see no room for it in the capacity of a juror.  For those that are interested in what happened at the trial level, that’s what court transcripts are for.  There are also plenty of authors that have followed these trials that have given excellent accounts of what transpired.

That being said, crimes like what happened to Trayvon Martin happen every single day in our country in almost every single city.  This week alone in Michigan, (of the ones that were made news) we had two young people working at a Family Dollar store shot to death.  The young woman was kidnapped, killed and thrown at the side of the road within miles of her abduction.  The young man had only started his employ a week earlier.  In the City of Flint, two young men in their early twenties and a nine year old boy were gunned down in their own apartment.  As I sit and type this blog, in the background I can hear the local new reporting seven murders in the City of Flint over the past seven days; the most recent a mother and her daughter that were discovered last night, shot to death, in their own apartment.  Where is the outrage for these senseless deaths?  Should we prepare for national media to descend upon Flint?

I am left to wonder why is it that one story is more horrific or more important than another?  You can travel to any state in this country over the past six weeks and see stories where a human being has killed other human beings.  In my mind, if anyone is inciting racial tension, it is the media who picks and chooses what we the people will see and be able to react to.  Every single murder is tragic and unnecessary.  Every murder should cause outrage.  They all wound the core of the families that are left behind to pick up the pieces, whether they lost a loved one to crime or to the prison system.  The true judgment comes from above, and if our justice system got it wrong, eventually God will make it right, and I am good with that.

My prayers are with the true victims of this crime and as with any crime of this magnitude, the ones that are left behind to cope with the consequences that result from someone’s bad judgment.  Those are the ones that have to show up in the courtroom, either to seek justice for the one that was lost or to try and support a loved one that is on trial for the death.  The pain those families have to endure as they sit across the courtroom, just feet away from each other; neither quite knowing the exact pain of the other.  Some that sit accused are the scum of the earth and need to be taken off our streets for the protection of the public; others made bad judgment calls that resulted in someone’s death.  When they could have taken the high road and walked away they decided to push a little harder; not out of murderous thoughts but out of a need to show someone how tough they are.  In some cases that judgment call backfires and they find themselves in a position that they never imagined themselves in, all because their ego dictated that they wanted to be known as “Billy Badass”.

I am not one that truly gets hate crimes because I do not hate.  To me we are all human beings trying to do the best with what we have been given.  We all are human beings, with beating hearts and blood coursing through our veins.  When you prick us we all bleed and when you hurt us we all cry.  When something is funny we all laugh and when our children excel in life, we all get that lump in our throat that is an internal reaction to the pride welling up inside of us.  I think that it is beautiful that God saw us all as a rainbow in his garden of life; giving us each uniqueness in this world.

We will all move on from the tragedies that have happened and in a year or two they will be distant painful memories.  We all need to be mindful of the judgment calls that we make each and every day in our lives.  We need to always be mindful that people have a right to live and have a right to their opinions, even if they don’t correspond with our own.  That fact is that anyone being murdered is a tragedy and it involves a human being against human being.  To me, it’s not a matter of black and white; it’s a matter of humanity.

Our legal system needs to recognize that by allowing jurists to turn their experience into a money making opportunity they will continue to get juries that are not there to serve justice, and it will always tip the balance.  No one should be composing music or writing chapters for their upcoming fame at a cost to the victims of a crime or the accused criminal seeking to clear their name.  You cannot expect good judgments from people who are not there for the pure intent of getting to the truth.



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