Whoever had “less than 48 hours” in the race-for-a-book-deal sweepstakes for the Zimmerman trial, claim your prize. Then give it back. According to the website Galleycat, which covers the book publishing industry, Juror Number B37 had signed a deal to write about the trial and its stunning denouement. Early in the day on Monday, July 15, Sharlene Martin, a literary agent and titular head of Martin Literary Management, released this statement:
“My hope is that people will read Juror B37’s book, written with her attorney husband, and understand the commitment it takes to serve and be sequestered on a jury in a highly publicized murder trial and how important, despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is to follow the letter of the law. It could open a whole new dialogue about laws that may need to be revised and revamped to suit a 21st century way of life. The reader will also learn why the jurors had no option but to find Zimmerman Not Guilty due to the manner in which he was charged and the content of the jury instructions.”
That was Monday morning. By midnight, the book idea had gone the way of the dodo. It appears that a huge social media backlash had something to do with it. Ms. Martin had announced the deal via Twitter on Monday morning and, apparently, wasn’t familiar with the way that social media site can proliferate an idea, especially one that outrages them. The Tweets came thick and fast:
Finally, at around 10:00 PM Pacific time Monday night, Ms. Martin Tweeted:
“After careful consideration regarding the proposed book project with Zimmerman Juror B37, I have decided to rescind my offer of representation in the exploration of a book based upon this case.”
There was also a petition created and circulated on Change.org by Genie Lauren. It requested that signers not to “allow this person to profit off of the injustice that they’ve served to the American public.” As of this writing (1:00am PST, Tuesday morning), the petition has 1000 signatures and at least one comment that brings up a very good point: when was this deal signed? Getting a deal from a literary agent isn’t like leafing through the phone book, picking a name and calling. This deal was announced less than 48 hours after the end of the trial… what the hell? Did Juror B37 talk to Ms. Martin while she was supposed to be sequestered? Did she think about cashing in even while the jury was deliberating? Did she call Martin before or after she left the courthouse? Her husband is an attorney – did he line this up for his wife? So many questions.
There is no doubt that books about the trial will make their appearance soon. What they should be about is what happened outside the courtroom. The political and moral aspects of this event will be spoken about for years to come – write about that. The case presented by the prosecution was sloppy and incomplete – I’d like to see another prosecutor dissect that, showing how it could have been done better. There are books to be written about this trial, but they should not be done simply to make money (though some will be, despite this reaction). They should look at racial and political pressures, the laws of Florida, motives, agendas and the implications of the verdict. But honestly, I don’t want to read self-serving drivel from a woman who so quickly sought to cash in on her 15 minutes of fame. It’s revolting. Thank you, Genie Lauren, for raising the clarion call. And thank you, Twitter, for being such an effective way to raise consciousness and be heard. The social media is here to stay and we are never silent. Sharlene Martin and Juror B37 learned that on the 15th of July, 2013.