Via Greg Hengler, there’s buzz about this on righty blogs this afternoon but I think we already kinda sorta knew about it. Watch Michael Skolnick, a member of the board of directors of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, explain almost offhandedly at the end of the clip here why one potential black juror ended up being bounced during voir dire. I thought it was odd that we hadn’t heard that before, so I checked Legal Insurrection, which covered the trial comprehensively, to see if this was on their radar during pre-trial juror selection. Yep, it was. The man in question was juror B35. Quote:
Later described by television commentators as an African-American man, he said that he watches the national FOX station for his news information. In particular he said he watched Hannity at night, sometimes also O’Reilly—later he referred to them as “Shaun” and “Bill.”
He expressed resentment that the whole affair had been made into a “racial thing.” He also recalled hearing that Zimmerman had “chased Martin down.” He emphasized again that maybe both Zimmerman and Martin were at the “wrong place at the wrong time,” and that he didn’t think it was racially motivated. He recalled that NBC had tampered with the recording of Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to police to make it sound as if Zimmerman, rather than the police, had been concerned with Martin’s race.
He said he did not approve of AL Sharpton and Jesse Jackson Jr. “saber rattling”. He recalled the TV news saying that Zimmerman claimed he was screaming for his life, and that Zimmerman claims he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him. B35 noted that all his friends and family are pro-Martin, and that he’s alone in not yet forming an opinion. He also spoke of recalling seeing pictures taken at the jail of Zimmerman’s head injuries. “When I saw the scars, I thought he got a pretty good beating, that it was a rough fight.”
He also recalled seeing the photos of Trayvon as a young boy. When questioned by West, B35 said that he “can count on one hand the number of people he knows who have not yet made up their mind,” and that he thought that the people who believed that Martin was killed simply for “walking while being black” were wrong.
After reading that and watching the clip again, I don’t think Skolnick’s claiming as a matter of fact that the prosecution bounced this guy because he was a Fox fan. I think the Fox thing is sticking out in Skolnick’s mind as a memorable detail about him when he might actually have been bounced for broader reasons. If you were part of the prosecution, you wouldn’t want someone on the jury who seemed skeptical from the outset that Zimmerman was racist. The prosecution needed to show that he acted with “a depraved mind regardless of human life” in killing Martin to prove second-degree murder; a juror who’s disinclined to find racism based on what he already knew of the case is unlikely to find that. Beyond that, the guy seemed to be following the case fairly closely, maybe because of his Fox viewing but maybe not. (Hannity conducted one of the only interviews with George Zimmerman, remember. B35 may have already seen defense “testimony” relevant to the case.) He knew enough about it to know that NBC butchered the audio of the 911 call to make Zimmerman seem racist. And, most importantly, he seemed like he was leaning towards self-defense in noting that Zimmerman had gotten a “pretty good beating.” If you’re the defense, you desperately want this guy on the jury. If you’re the prosecution? No way. Regardless of how he feels about “Bill” and “Sean.”
That said, B35’s take does put the lie to the idea that a black juror inevitably would have sided against Zimmerman, which is what most of the complaints about a lack of black jurors boil down to. Supposedly, a more racially diverse jury would, at a bare minimum, have ended up deadlocked rather than unanimous in acquittal. Maybe not.