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Stop Protesting, Says Juror #6

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Important: Please note this is not the actual juror #6. We wrote this from the perspective of being a juror in light of the outrage over the verdict.

I was chosen to decide George Zimmerman's fate. I was the 6th Juror in the case of The State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman. Like most Jurors, I wasn't especially enthusiastic about fulfilling my civic duty. However, unlike most Jurors, I was assigned to one of the most high profile court cases of the decade. I can't say that I was looking forward to all of the responsibility that would come with making such a sure to be scrutinized decision, but I believe in the jury system and accept the obligation that comes with that. I was feeling proud, determined and extremely nervous the first day of the trial.

Despite the nature and emotion of the case, we had to keep our heads clear and make our decision based strictly on the evidence, or lack of. We were shown pictures of Trayvon Martin and it was made clear to us that George Zimmerman did in fact shoot and kill an unarmed teenager. I was very much aware that a large part of America was rooting against Zimmerman and he was widely portrayed as a racist murderer. It was hard to keep my emotions in check but I knew that I could not allow the sadness I felt for both the victim and the defendant to cloud my judgment.

Even while the media and other outside observers were focusing on tangential elements of the case such as race relations, gun control, and assumptions about Zimmerman, I knew we had to base our decisions strictly on the evidence. The importance of reasonable doubt was made especially clear and we were told that if we were even 1% unsure about Zimmerman not acting in self-defense, he was to be acquitted.

Keeping that in mind, and considering all of the evidence that the Judge gave us, after two days of deliberation, we were unanimous that the only right decision was to acquit Zimmerman of both the second-degree murder charge and the manslaughter charge that was later offered. Working through the evidence and coming to a decision was one of the most difficult situations I've ever been through.

There is immense pressure to do the "right" thing, but I realize that a young man is dead and Zimmerman's life will never be the same. There are no winners in this case. As a jury we were very much aware that our verdict was potentially going to be unpopular with some groups, but we didn't realize to what extent our verdict would polarize the country. I have guilt about that but honestly tried to do my best with the task I was given.

As a Jury, we work on the people's side of the social contract. We are peers of the accused and decide how the government punishes the defendant on behalf of its citizens. Our decision was not made lightly; we worked tirelessly, and spent many months scrupulously reviewing every detail of the case. The riots that were a result of our verdict are a violation of the social contract that the United States and its citizens must uphold. While I sympathize with those that do not agree with our decision, this kind of kneejerk reaction discredits the security of the Justice System.

By Owen Dirkse, Summer Intern