Despite popular perception, the trial of George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin had nothing to do with race, according to the first juror to speak publicly since Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges on Saturday.
"I think all of us thought race did not play a role," the woman known only as Juror B37 said about the jury's deliberations, during an interview on CNN Monday. "We never had that discussion."
Instead, Juror B37 said the jury of six women spent hours poring over the law and the evidence from the trial before determining that Zimmerman did not meet the standards required for a second-degree murder or manslaughter conviction.
"There was a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something, and after hours and hours and hours of deliberating over the law, and reading it over and over and over again, we decided there's just no way, other place to go," she said.
Juror B37’s comments point to the degree to which the legal system succeeded in shutting racial considerations out of the courtroom, but have left many Americans wondering how race could be untangled from the case to begin with.
“There’s no justice for black people,” Maxine McCrey, told The New York Times while attending services at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York. “Profiling and targeting our black men has not stopped.”
According to some analysts, the chasm between public perception and what happened in the courtroom is due in part to narrow laws that govern what is discussed in a courtroom.
“All that really mattered in that courtroom is whether Mr. Zimmerman reasonably believed that his life was in danger when he pulled the trigger. Critics of the verdict might not like the statutes that allowed for this outcome, but the proper response would not have been for the jury to ignore them and convict,” wrote Jason Riley in a Wall Street Journal column.
But other commentators have criticized the idea that race was too broad for the trial.
"The anger felt by so many African-Americans speaks to the simplest of truths: that race and law cannot be cleanly separated. We are tired of hearing that race is a conversation for another day," wrote Ekow Yankah in a New York Times column. "Without an honest jurisprudence that is brave enough to tackle the way race infuses our criminal law, Trayvon Martin’s voice will be silenced again."
Before the trial, Florida Judge Debra Nelson barred prosecutors from using the term “racial profiling” at the request of defense lawyers, who argued the term was inflammatory. They also asked that words such as "vigilante" or "wannabe cop" also be banned on the same grounds, but that request was denied.
Using a term such as "racial profiling" would “infect” a jury, defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Zimmerman and his defense team argued that race was not a factor in Trayvon’s death, but that Zimmerman acted in self-defense as the teenager attacked him.
“This became a focus for a civil rights event, which again is a wonderful event to have,” Mr. O’Mara said after the verdict. “But they decided that George Zimmerman would be the person who they were to blame and sort of use as the creation of a civil rights violation, none of which was borne out by the facts. The facts that night were not borne out that he acted in a racial way,” he said.
Assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda, lead prosecutor at the trial, continued his in-court tactic of referring to race subtly rather than overtly in a post-verdict interview with USA Today:
"This is an issue about whether you are going to allow a citizen to take the law into his own hands," Mr. de la Rionda told the newspaper. "I prosecuted this case because you had a man who decided to make assumptions – the assumptions turned out to be wrong and, as a result, a young man – a 17-year-old teenager – was killed."