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Verdict galvanizes further protests

Outrage is felt nationwide. A Zimmerman juror speaks out about the decision: 'We ... cried over it afterward.'

July 16, 2013|Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • People protest the George Zimmerman verdict in Leimert Park in Los Angeles.
People protest the George Zimmerman verdict in Leimert Park in Los Angeles. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

SANFORD, FLA. — The six-woman jury that acquitted George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin was initially split down the middle, with half voting to acquit, two for manslaughter and one for second-degree murder, according to the first juror to speak publicly.

She was among those favoring acquittal, the juror told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday night.

Meanwhile, protests of the verdict continued across the country. In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched along Crenshaw Boulevard, stomping on cars, assaulting bystanders, setting fires and vandalizing property. People hurled chunks of concrete at officers on Vernon Avenue, police said, but no injuries were reported. Police declared an unlawful assembly shortly before 10 p.m. and arrested at least 13 people.

The chaos created a nightmare for commuters as cars were trapped around Leimert Park and bus service was canceled on Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, transit officials said.

The juror identified in court as B37 appeared on CNN with her face obscured, saying she wanted to be "cautious."

Earlier in the day, a literary agent announced that the juror had signed a deal to write a book about the trial. On CNN, the juror said she had spoken out and signed the deal with her husband, a lawyer, because she wanted the world to know how hard the sequestered jury worked, taking time to review evidence and testimony for nearly 60 witnesses during the five-week trial.

"We didn't just go in there and say, we're going to come in here and do guilty, not guilty -- we thought about it for hours, and cried over it afterward. I don't think any of us could do anything like that ever again," she said. Jurors deliberated about 16 hours before reaching their verdict Saturday night.

Prosecutors had argued that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whom they portrayed as a "wannabe cop," profiled the unarmed Martin, 17, attacked him and then lied, claiming he acted in self-defense.

Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies as Latino.

The juror, who is white, said that during deliberations she and the others -- one Latina and four other whites -- came to believe Zimmerman's account of events the night of Feb. 26, 2012: that Martin attacked him, that Zimmerman feared for his life and that he fired to defend himself. Race never entered into their deliberations, she said.

The juror told CNN she believed Sanford's lead police investigator, who testified that he thought Zimmerman was telling the truth about being threatened that night. She also said she believed the voice heard screaming on a 911 tape was Zimmerman's.

"After hours and hours of deliberating over the law and going over and over, we decided there was no other way to go. ... He had a right to defend himself," she said.

Asked whether she felt sorry for Martin, the juror replied: "I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry for Trayvon, and the situation he was in, and I feel sorry for George because of the situation he got himself in."

Cooper said CNN did not pay the juror to appear.

So far, the other jurors have not granted interviews. Their names remained under seal Monday.

Anger over the verdict continued, with calls for the Justice Department to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Nearly 1.1 million supporters have signed a petition sponsored by the NAACP calling on the Justice Department to take action against Zimmerman and "address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin."

The department has an ongoing investigation into the shooting. In a speech to a largely African American sorority Monday, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. did not indicate when a decision would be made.

"The Justice Department shares your concern. I share your concern," said Holder, who was to address the NAACP national convention in Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday.

For the government to mount a federal case alleging civil rights violations, the bar is high--such charges are usually brought against a law enforcement agency, not an individual.

In Orlando, NAACP President and Chief Executive Benjamin Todd Jealous told the vocal crowd on the first day of its five-day national convention, "These are times of great possibility, but also times of great peril" that demand courage and action.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Jealous -- the father of two -- said Zimmerman's acquittal brought him to tears.

"When I heard that ... the first thing I did was walk over to my son's crib and lift him up, and I listened to him breathe," Jealous recalled. "And then I began to cry. No one can explain to me how, if this young boy was white, somebody wouldn't be in prison right now."

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump told the convention that he had spoken with Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, the morning after the verdict.

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