Trayvon Martin

Zimmerman juror: Race did not play a role in shooting of unarmed teenager

The six-member jury that acquitted George Zimmerman did not believe race played a role in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the first juror to speak publicly about the trial said Monday night.

The juror, identified only as Juror B37, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she and the other jurors believed the screaming voice captured on a 911 recording belonged to Zimmerman, and lent little credibility to a key witness who spoke to Trayvon on the phone before he died. They also put limited faith in the testimony provided by Trayvon’s parents.

“They said anything a mother and father would say,” said the juror, who said she wanted to keep her identity secret and was almost invisible in deep shadow.

Juror B37 said she believed Trayvon was the aggressor — and added she had “no doubt” that Zimmerman feared for his life during the confrontation in a Sanford housing complex.

“I think his heart was in the right place,” she said of Zimmerman. “It just went terribly wrong.”

“Do you think he’s guilty of something?” Cooper pressed.

“I think he’s guilty of not using good judgment,” she responded.

Zimmerman, the juror said, was “overeager to help people.” She added that she believed he was “was pretty consistent and told the truth” to investigators.

Although Juror B37 said she was sympathetic to Zimmerman throughout the trial, she said the jury was initially divided. Three members of the all-female jury wanted to find Zimmerman not guilty, two believed a manslaughter verdict was appropriate, and one supported a finding of second-degree murder.

All six members found the law to be “very confusing,” she said.

But after reading the definitions of second-degree murder and manslaughter “over and over,” the jurors reached consensus.

“He had a right to defend himself,” Juror B37 said of Zimmerman. “If he felt threatened, that his life was going to be taken away for him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

Before ending her interview with Cooper, Juror B37 broke down in tears.

“I want people to know that we put everything into everything to get this verdict,” she said. “We didn’t just go in there and say, we’re going to do guilty/not guilty. We thought about it for hours and cried over it afterwards. I don’t think any of us could ever do anything like that ever again.”

What is known about Juror B37 came from her comments as she was being interviewed by both sides before trial began, that 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 judge in the case has said the clerk’s office will not make public the names of the jurors for a matter of months, but that doesn’t ban jurors speaking out.

Despite keeping her identity secret, Juror B37 has already secured an agent to peddle an as-yet unwritten book.

The woman’s literary agent, Sharlene Martin of Martin Literary Management in Washington state, released a statement Monday saying Juror B37 had contacted her after being approached by multiple media outlets for appearances.

Juror B37’s comments on CNN stood in sharp contrast to interviews with civil rights leaders, who on Monday intensified their calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to file federal civil-rights violation charges against Zimmerman.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network, criticized Florida prosecutors for not being aggressive enough, and urged the federal government to determine whether Trayvon’s civil rights were violated.

“There is no double jeopardy here because they specifically said this was not about race,” Sharpton told the Today show. “It opens the door for the federal government to investigate what [Zimmerman] meant when he said, ‘They always get away.’”

To turn up the pressure, Sharpton promised demonstrations in 100 different cities on Saturday, each “led by ministers pressing the federal government to protect our rights.”

Responding to Sharpton and other leaders, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday he shared some concerns about the case — and pledged to continue an ongoing Justice Department investigation into possible violations of civil-rights laws.

Holder called the shooting “tragic” and “unnecessary.”

“We are committed to standing with the people of Sanford, with the individuals and families affected by this incident, and with our state and local partners in order to alleviate tension, address community concerns, and promote healing,” Holder said at the anniversary celebration of the predominantly African-American Delta Sigma Theta sorority in Washington. “We are determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion — and also with truth.”

So far, however, the FBI has found no evidence that racial bias was a motivating factor in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting. Agents investigating the case last July determined that Zimmerman had not expressed racial animus at any time before the confrontation with Trayvon in a Sanford housing complex.

President Barack Obama also weighed in Monday, but did not address the federal investigation. Instead, the president used the case to push for a series of gun control measures that were defeated earlier this year after an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“The president wanted to convey that he felt that the death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy for his family, for a community, but also for the country,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “And he wanted to express his view… we should ask ourselves if we are doing all that we can to foster compassion and understanding in our communities and to stem the tide of gun violence. As well as how we can prevent future tragedies like this from happening.”

Holder and two other Cabinet members — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan — will speak Tuesday at the annual NAACP conference in Orlando, not far from Sanford where the shooting took place. They are expected to speak about gun violence.

In Miami, faith-based leaders are heeding Sharpton’s call and planning a demonstration for 10 a.m. Saturday in front of the U.S. Department of Justice Building, 99 NE Fourth St., Bishop Victor T. Curry said.

“When it comes to cases like this, we have not had much success on the local or state level,” said Curry, the senior pastor at New Birth Baptist Church and president of the South Florida chapter of the National Action Network. “It has always been the federal government having to step in and right some of the wrongs.”

Curry said he had been urging congregants to remain calm “even if the verdict didn’t go the way many people thought it should have gone.”

“All we can do is ask the Obama administration’s attorney general, Eric Holder, to consider opening the case from the federal level and investigate it,” he said.

Additionally, a student group known as the Dream Defenders is planning a Tuesday morning rally at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

“We will be going to Gov. Rick Scott’s office to make some demands on behalf of the youth of Florida,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, 28, the group’s legal and policy director.

Among the demands: the repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law, which gives a person immunity from prosecution for using deadly force if the person reasonably believed he or she was in danger.

Miami Herald staff writer Marc Caputo and staff researcher Monika Z. Leal contributed to this report. McClatchy Newspapers White House Correspondent Anita Kumar contributed reporting from Washington.