Now that the legal system has become a primary form of entertainment for Americans (It feels so much like news, we don't even have to feel guilty about watching it!) it's amazing to me how often we manage to overlook the simplest explanation for the wonkiest verdicts: Juries are made up of people, and people are dumber than a bag of hammers. What's that old saying, "Imagine the average American, then remember that half of them aren't even that smart?"
The math is bad (that would be the median American) but the point is useful. Think about every knucklehead co-worker, every ranting racist uncle, every Jesus/Precious Moments obsessed granny, every deviant high school classmate, every friend-of-friend who giggles and admits not knowing the difference between Republicans and Democrats…that's your jury pool, folks. True, many of the people least capable of handling the responsibilities of a juror are weeded out during the selection process, but for the most part jury pools are a grab bag of working- and middle-class America wherever you live. News network "legal analysts" love to question jury selection after the fact, but in some jurisdictions the prosecution and defense are probably just thankful to find 12 eligible adults who aren't completely illiterate and who have enough social awareness not to shout ethnic slurs in public.
One of the Zimmerman jurors – the inevitable "Juror Who Writes a Book," naturally – has given a couple interviews. In the process, she has revealed herself to be not-the-sharpest of knives. If her explanation sounds like what you'd hear from a gossipy middle aged woman at a hair salon as Court TV blares in the distance, well, that's basically what it is. It's good to hear her say phrases like "boy of color" and to admit that she was influenced by riots in response to the Martin death…riots that didn't actually happen:
But there are some other reasons to wonder why she got on the jury, particularly why the prosecutors let her on the jury.
Juror B37 hates the media and thinks all reporting is biased. She doesn’t listen to the radio or read the Internet but rather gets all her news from the Today show. She also repeatedly referred to the riots that broke out in Sanford after Martin was killed. Of course, there were no riots after Martin was killed.
In other words, juror B37 is not only ignorant but militantly ignorant.
Since this story broke, many analysts (armchair and otherwise) have questioned the State's decision to let this person on the jury. Well, both sides are at the mercy of the pool. Yes, as the prosecutor I certainly would have looked for a way to reject this dumbass, but…maybe the others were worse. Maybe it was especially difficult to find people who didn't have extensive knowledge of the Martin incident through the media. Think about that for a second – how ignorant of a person would you have to be to live in the county in which this happened and manage to hear relatively little about it?
Given the necessity of finding people who haven't (openly) prejudged the defendant, you're not only at the mercy of the jury pool in a widely publicized case like this – you're at the mercy of the lousiest portion of that pool. And that is why the justice system does things that seem illogical, racist, biased, etc so often. It is made up of the collective judgments of Ordinary Americans, and Ordinary Americans have, uh, some very curious and subjective ways of drawing conclusions irrespective of evidence to the contrary. And that's about as nicely as I can put it.