Jerald Eggleston, 10, holds a sign as he joined the more than 100 protestors organized outside the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Houston in reaction to the acquittal of neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Johnny Hans
MIAMI — Trayvon Martin “played a huge role in his death,” one of the six jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of the Miami Gardens teenager said in an interview that aired Tuesday night.
“When George confronted him, he could have walked away and gone home,” Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “He didn’t have to do whatever he did and come back and be in a fight.”
The juror conceded that Zimmerman had exercised bad judgment when he got out of his car to follow Martin, setting into motion the chain of events that led to the fatal shooting of the unarmed teen.
Zimmerman “started the ball rolling,” the juror said. “He could have avoided the whole situation by staying in the car.” But “when the end came to the end, he was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin,” the juror said, adding that she believed testimony from Zimmerman, who did not take the witness stand, would not have made a difference in the outcome of the case.
Juror B37 spoke to Cooper on Monday on the condition that she would not be identified. She appeared on the show obscured by a dark shadow.
All that is known about the woman comes from her pretrial interviews. She is middle-aged, has two grown children, once had a license to carry a concealed weapon, and worked for a chiropractor for 16 years.
The names of the six jurors, all women, will not become public record for several months. That does not bar jurors from speaking out or revealing their identities if they choose.
None of the other jurors has come forward. But late Tuesday, four of the women said Juror B37 did not speak for the entire jury.
“Serving on this jury has been a highly emotional and physically draining experience for each of us,” they wrote in a joint statement, in which they also asked for privacy. “The death of a teenager weighed heavily on our hearts but in the end we did what the law required us to do.”
On Monday, Juror B37 announced that she had signed a deal with a literary agent to write a book. She backed off her plans Tuesday, saying that the sequestration of the jury during the long trial had “shielded (her) from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case.”
Speaking to Cooper, the juror said she felt as if she had gotten to know Zimmerman. She called the defendant by his first name, and said she knew what motivated him.
By contrast, the juror said she knew little about Martin.
“We basically had no information about what kind of a boy Trayvon was and what he did,” she said. “We know where he went to school. That was about it — and that he lived in Miami.”
When asked what she would say to Martin’s parents, the juror responded: “I would say, I’m terribly sorry for your loss. It’s a tragedy. … I didn’t know him, but I felt their pain because of his death.”
Fighting back tears, she added: “I felt bad that we couldn’t give them the verdict that they wanted. But legally, we couldn’t do that.”
The CNN interview also raised new questions about the role Florida’s stand-your-ground law played in the jury deliberations.
Under the 2005 self-defense law, a person may use deadly force if the person “reasonably believes” he or she is in a life-threatening situation — and has no obligation to attempt to retreat from the threat.
Zimmerman waived his right to a stand-your-ground hearing before trial, and did not invoke it as part of the defense strategy. But it was included in the jury instructions.
In a portion of the interview that aired Monday, Juror B37 said she and the other five members believed Martin was the aggressor in the Feb. 26, 2012, confrontation. The remarks that aired Tuesday, however, were more nuanced.
“I think the roles changed,” the juror explained. “I think George got in a little too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him and get one over up on him. I think Travyon got mad and attacked him.”
The controversial stand-your-ground law garnered new critics Tuesday, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Speaking at the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, Holder said the time had come “to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
Miami lawyer David Weinstein, a former state and federal prosecutor, called the speech “appropriate” in light of the concerns raised by civil rights organizations.
To date, more than 1 million people have signed an NAACP petition urging the U.S. Department of Justice to file federal civil rights violation charges against Zimmerman, the organization said.
“The Justice Department has a high burden of proof to meet before they can file any federal charges,” Weinstein said. “His shifting of the focus from an investigation into possible civil rights-hate crime charges to an analysis of self-defense laws was the appropriate response. This approach will keep people’s expectations in check and not create false hope.”
The sentiment was echoed in Tallahassee, where more than 100 student activists crowded into Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office to demand a repeal of the self-defense law.
The activists, who called themselves the Dream Defenders, called on Scott to convene a special session of the Legislature dedicated to stand-your-ground, racial profiling and what they called the school-to-prison pipeline. They also called on Florida lawmakers to pass a Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act.
“If the courts aren’t going to deal with these issues, we have to call upon our elected officials to make changes,” said Nailah Summers, 25, a Miami Beach native and president of the University of Florida chapter of the Dream Defenders.
Summers and the other protesters flooded Scott’s office early Tuesday, and pledged to stay until they could meet with the governor.
There was one problem: Scott was in New York.
Protests elsewhere in the country were less peaceful. In Los Angeles, protesters broke windows and blocked a freeway. At least 14 people were arrested, according to published reports.
Martin supporters also took to social media Tuesday, many to propose a boycott of Florida until stand-your-ground is repealed.
At least two online petitions on MoveOn.org demanding the law be reformed or repealed have attracted about 7,200 signatures. A separate Boycott Florida page on Facebook has more than 1,300 “likes.”
(Miami Herald staff writers Audra D. S. Burch and Jay Weaver contributed to this report.)
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