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Law Prof: Zimmerman Jury Prejudiced Against Blacks

A UC Berkeley law professor argues the six-person jury that acquitted George Zimmerman did so because they are, consciously or not, prejudiced against black people.

“In convincing the jury that George Zimmerman was reasonable in fearing for his life, the defense had a wind at its back that would not have been there had Trayvon been female or white,” writes Jonathan Simon, associate dean of the Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy program, in a blog post. “Imagine that Trayvon was a 17 year old female, a 54 year old white male, or even a 17 year old white male. In all of those cases the prosecutors would have had an easier job convincing the jury that Zimmerman acted recklessly in firing his gun.”

“Now the jury knew that Trayvon had gone to the store to get candy and that he was talking to a friend on his cell phone just before the incident; so they had no immediate context which could explain why he might suddenly act with violence. All they had was his race and the racialized cultural narratives about anger and violence that are part of the American legacy of racist violence. For reasonable doubt, that may have been all they needed.”

Simon, in his post titled “Race and Reasonable Doubt,” he said the overall courtroom narrative has been misleading.

“The acquittal of wanna-bee neighborhood guardian George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin reflects the impenetrable wall that the law and the trial judge set up between the narrow legal questions of culpability and the broad social issues that had animated passions in the case: gun carrying in public and racial profiling,” he stated. “But do not buy this part of the narrative. While the legal issues may have been narrow and the evidence carefully filtered by the judge, whether consciously or not, race was central to the jury’s considerations in Sanford this past weekend.”

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