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Are the jurors safe?

  • Jason Johnson analyzes who is safer: George Zimmerman or the jurors who rendered a verdict of not guilty
  • Johnson is an HLN contributor, professor and author
Are the jurors safe?
Jason Johnson

Editor’s note: Jason Johnson is an HLN contributor and professor of political science at Hiram College in Ohio. He is the author of “Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell.” He is on Twitter.

Your view of the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial is directly related to whose safety you are most concerned about in the aftermath of this case.

If you supported Zimmerman, you likely fear for his safety. If you supported Martin, you likely fear for the safety of young black men across America. The verdict in this trial certainly suggests that more people might feel emboldened to use firearms against those they perceive as threats regardless of the actual facts.

However, one group of people whose safety shouldn’t be on anyone’s radar is the “Sanford 6” -- the women on the jury of the Zimmerman trial. They’ll be fine after this case, unless they chose otherwise.

Judge Nelson has declared that the identities of the jurors in the Zimmerman trial, six women -- five white, one black/Hispanic, five mothers, and several with firearms -- are off-limits to the press.

In many high-profile cases, judges rule that the identities of the jurors are to be kept secret from the public for six months or more, but in this case, Judge Nelson has gone one step further. She has declared that their identities are to be kept a secret indefinitely. In other words, unless the women of the jury want to come forward to do interviews with the press, it would require a court hearing to compel the judge to make their identities available to the public. This has both good and bad consequences for the women, Zimmerman's prosecutors, and the viewing public.

Unless or until some of the jurors come forth, the Martin family and the State's prosecutors won’t really know what the inside workings of the jury room were that led to Zimmerman being found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter. While an explanation from one juror may not make the family grieve any less or the State do any better in the future, any information is probably somewhat of a salve to wounded hearts and failed efforts.

Ultimately, it wouldn’t really matter to Zimmerman what the jury process was, since he was found innocent. The detail of deliberations would be like hearing the details of how close your flight was to crashing several months after the fact. Who would want to know that information? As far as the public goes, no amount of information from any jury will make any side feel better.

For the sake of safety, I highly doubt we’ll hear from any of the jurors anytime soon. The press is barred from talking to them without their permission, and the likelihood of Judge Nelson lifting the ban without a vigorous explanation from the fourth estate is pretty unlikely.

The Zimmerman jurors will remain safe and anonymous. And to be honest, even if months or years from now, one or several of these women decide they want to speak up, the results of their decision will have already been set in stone. The likelihood that anyone would seek vengeance is a much more pressing concern to Zimmerman and his talkative brother than any of the women who helped arrive at this final verdict. 

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