What were some of the issues with which the jurors had to deal during the trial of George Zimmerman?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a daunting task it must have been for the jury in George Zimmerman's trial to have listened intently to the facts and opinions both sides presented, understood the specific charges, and weighed the evidence before making a verdict which they had to have known would ignite criticism and debate (and perhaps worse) all across the country. This could not have been an easy task for the jurors, and they had several problems (or at least potential problems) to deal with in this particular case.

First, the trial was conducted in the public arena. This means that everyone who watched, listened, or read about the trial has an opinion, even if they only gathered snippets and sound bytes of information. Like armchair quarterbacks and backseat drivers, these part-time followers of the trial are going to create problems for the jurors after the verdict is announced because they think they know better. Life after the trial will be potentially challenging for these jurors once their identities are known.

Second, Zimmerman's victim was young and black, two characteristics which always capture the attention of the media and those who want to politicize and emotionalize such events. There is a natural sympathy for a young person who dies young as well as for a black teenager killed by an adult, non-black man. Jurors would have to move beyond their own and others' emotions and reasonably examine the facts in the case. 

Third, the charges (second-degree murder or manslaughter) did not quite seem to fit the case. At the last moment, the prosecution even tried to add another charge (child abuse), confusing the issue even further. Add to that the perception, at least, that this case was about the "stand your ground" law and self-defense, and the charges grow even more confusing.

Finally, this case had to have taken a personal toll on the jurors. It was a long case and they were sequestered for the duration. They were away from their families and jobs, and other aspects of their lives had to be put on hold until the case was completed and the verdict was in. Though they were no doubt willing to do the job, it had to have been difficult for them on a personal level. No matter the outcome of this case, they had to know they were going to make enemies, even among their families and friends. 

In truth, what happened in the George Zimmerman case happens all over the country every day, but it happens on a much smaller and much less public scale. Serving on a jury is a rather thankless job (the ridiculously low compensation jurors get is proof of that), but in every city and town across the country, people show up when they are required and responsibly do what they are asked, simply because it is their civic duty.

This case had some extra issues because of its national, and perhaps international, exposure; however, so far at least one of the jurors and an alternate have spoken publicly about the experience and another has already signed a book deal, proving that there are two sides to this kind of notoriety.