Anguished and apologetic, the only juror to show her face and openly discuss the acquittal of George Zimmerman nearly two weeks ago said she is still haunted by the idea that he “got away with murder” in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The only minority in the all-female jury, the juror known as B-29 said she struggled to balance the law with her feelings, in her first public comments made in an exclusive interview with ABC airing Thursday and Friday. Although she followed the law and stands by her decision, she said she feels she owes the parents of the Miami Gardens teenager an apology and understands their crusade.
“You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” said the woman, using only her first name, “Maddy,” for security reasons. “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence.”
Maddy is the second juror to come forward, the first with her face shown, offering insight into how Zimmerman’s fate was decided. He was acquitted July 13 after a gripping five-week trial that provided the framework for a national discussion about race, profiling, self-defense laws and gun control. The neighborhood watchman fatally shot Trayvon in the chest during a violent struggle 17 months ago in a Sanford townhouse complex. After almost three weeks of testimony, more than 50 witnesses on both sides and 60 pieces evidence, the jury — five non-Hispanic whites, one Hispanic — deliberated for about 16 hours over two days. The jury was initially split: three for not guilty; two for manslaughter; and Maddy, who first voted for second-degree murder, which carried the possibility of a life sentence.
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By the second day, nine hours into deliberations, she realized there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Zimmerman of murder or manslaughter under Florida laws — laws that she, like the other juror who went public, found confusing.
“I was the juror that was going to give them the hung jury. I fought to the end,” she told Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, later adding, “George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can’t get away from God. And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with. [But] the law couldn’t prove it.’’
Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Maddy’s observations of the trial left the family stunned.
“It is devastating for my family to hear the comments from juror B29, comments which we already knew in our hearts to be true. That George Zimmerman literally got away with murder,’’ she said in a statement. “This new information challenges our nation once again to do everything we can to make sure that this never happens to another child. That’s why Tracy and I have launched The Trayvon Martin Foundation to try and take something very painful and negative and turn it into something positive as a legacy to our son.”
Maddy, 36, who is Puerto Rican and a mother of eight children, was selected as a juror months after she had moved to Seminole County from Chicago. She works as a nursing assistant.
She did not buy the prosecution’s argument — and the widely carried media narrative — that Zimmerman had profiled Trayvon because he was black, and said that, for her personally, race was not part of the case.
Maddy’s statements put her at the opposite end of the spectrum from another juror who remained anonymous but gave a television interview last week to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. That juror, B-37, said she and two others were ready to acquit at the start of deliberations, felt Trayvon contributed to his own death and expressed a deep amount of sympathy for Zimmerman, at points referring to him by his first name.
But the two jurors ultimately agreed then and now on the same fact: Florida’s controversial self-defense laws and the lack of solid evidence made it almost impossible to convict Zimmerman.
“If members of the jury found the instructions so confusing to where they reached the wrong verdict, then they should join the efforts to amend the Stand Your Ground laws,’’ Benjamin Crump, attorney for Trayvon’s parents, said after Maddy’s comments were made public Thursday.
Both the shooting and not-guilty verdict have become flash points in the latest national debate about guns and, particularly, Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law that allows defendants to more easily use lethal force in some situations instead of retreating. Months after the shooting, Gov. Rick Scott commissioned a committee to review Stand Your Ground. The committee returned with a few minor suggestions, leaving the law largely intact.
The exact role of Stand Your Ground in this case, however, is unclear. The law’s wording appeared in the jury instructions, which one Zimmerman defense attorney called “fine” after partly reading it aloud in court. Juror B-37 twice mentioned on CNN that Stand Your Ground was part of the deliberations.
Two days after the verdict, B-37 gave the interview and said she and her husband, an attorney, were writing a book, a plan that was later scrapped after social media pressure. Days later, four of the remaining jurors issued a statement distancing themselves from B-37.
Since the trial, Maddy said she has worried that she had made the wrong decision. Or even if there should ever have been a trial.
“I felt like I let a lot of people down, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Did I go the right way? Did I go the wrong way?’ ” she said. “As much as we were trying to find this man guilty . . . they give you a booklet that basically tells you the truth, and the truth is that there was nothing that we could do about it,” she said. “I feel the verdict was already told.”
She also wrestles with the Martin family’s loss of a child. “It’s hard for me to sleep, it’s hard for me to eat because I feel I was forcefully included in Trayvon Martin’s death,’’ she said tearfully. “And as I carry him on my back, I’m hurting as much [as] Trayvon’s Martin’s mother because there’s no way that any mother should feel that pain.”
The interview was shown on ABC World News and Nightline and will air Friday morning on Good Morning America.
Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo contributed to this story.