The image of a murder trial jury often times gives the image from 12 Angry Men, a group holed up, cut off from contact from the outside world, with the weight of life or death hanging over their heads as they decide the fate of the person on trial. However, in the case of the Zimmerman trial, the revelations are of steak dinners, fancy pedicures and trips to local museums, all on the taxpayer dime. The decision to pamper the jury was undertaken for a myriad of reasons. As one Florida attorney, Randy Reep, pointed out:
These women of course are not criminals, yet we took them from their families. While we did not say this then, now it is clear, half of the country is going to very vocally find fault with your dedicated effort. A Bloomin Onion at Outback would not adequately reimburse these women for the bitterness [some will level at them for their jury service.]
In a statement by the Sheriff’s office, this was elaborated upon:
Jurors watched television and movies, exercised at the hotel fitness center, and spent weekends being visited by family and friends.
Hold on a second. The Sheriff’s office did not take them away from their families, they had access to them over the weekend! However, they were carefully monitored to prevent jury tampering at least, right? To verify this statement, AI’s own Dr. Mark Bear contacted them, telling us:
Just verified with Heather Smith, from the Seminole Country Sheriff’s Office at 407-474-6259. She states, “Generally speaking, jurors serving on the Zimmerman trial were afforded two hours of visiting privileges with family of friends each weekend.” I asked what she meant by generally speaking,” and she states, “there were more opportunities afforded jurors but not all took advantage.”
So, these visits were unsupervised. WFTV has dug into these visits, and what they found calls into question the verdict. As WFTV’s legal analyst, Bill Sheaffer, points out:
It only takes two seconds for an inappropriate comment to be made to a juror by a family member inadvertently or otherwise to possibly affect the verdict, how they look at the case.
The potential book was always intended to be a respectful observation of the trial from my and my husband’s perspectives…
Her husband holding a perspective strong enough to write a book on the subject, given unsupervised access during the trial to his wife on the jury. Juror B37 has also admitted that the decision was reached with information not presented at the trial itself.
This is a siren bell warning of jury tampering. And this is but one juror, how much was discussed with the other jurors. The failure to supervise has now resulted in a potential legal nightmare for the state of Florida, which can be held liable for failing to properly ensure an untampered jury. Add to it the money that juror B37 could anticipate from such a book deal, which would be worth far more if given a not-guilty verdict than otherwise, and we are looking at a potential post-trial jury payoff negotiated through the husband.
And the concerns over Juror B37 are far older than that apparent after the trial. In watching her jury interview, one finds a very concerning pattern. As discussed by legal expert Gail Brashers-Krug, a former federal prosecutor and law professor and who is currently a criminal defense attorney in Iowa:
She really wants to be a juror. She seems to be going out of her way to minimize the disruptive effect of a multiweek trial on her life. Jurors rarely do that. She is also taking pains to avoid saying anything particularly sympathetic to either side. Both sides tend to be very skeptical of jurors who are particularly eager to serve on high-profile cases. Often they have their own agendas, or are attention-seekers.
We find a juror with their own agenda, who managed to sneak her way onto the jury, with unsupervised access to an element harboring their own viewpoint and opinion, and who aimed to profit off of a non-guilty verdict. She had the means, by having access to her husband unsupervised. She had the motive, by profiting off of a book deal. And she had the opportunity by being on the jury in the first place.
Jury tampering is a third degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison. But with a man who would cover up a tuberculosis outbreak in charge of ensuring the judicial process is followed, it is highly doubtful a real investigation into jury tampering will happen in Florida.