No, That Zimmerman Juror Didn’t Say He Got Away With Murder

How you look at things.
July 26 2013 1:27 PM

Did George Zimmerman Get Away With Murder?

The media are reporting that a juror says Zimmerman is guilty of murder. That’s not true.

Juror B29
Robin Roberts interviews Juror B29, the only minority juror from the George Zimmerman trial, on an episode of "Good Morning America" that aired July 26, 2013.

Photo courtesy Donna Svennevik/ABC

Did George Zimmerman get away with murder? That’s what one of his jurors says, according to headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and dozens of other newspapers. Trayvon Martin’s mother and the Martin family’s attorney are trumpeting this “new information” as proof that “George Zimmerman literally got away with murder.”

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

The reports are based on an ABC News interview with Juror B29, the sole nonwhite juror. She has identified herself only by her first name, Maddy. She’s been framed as the woman who was bullied out of voting to convict Zimmerman. But that’s not true. She stands by the verdict. She yielded to the evidence and the law, not to bullying. She thinks Zimmerman was morally culpable but not legally guilty. And she wants us to distinguish between this trial and larger questions of race and justice.

ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented. Here are the key points.

Advertisement

1. The phrase “got away with murder” was put in her mouth. Nightline shows ABC interviewer Robin Roberts asking Maddy: “Some people have said, ‘George Zimmerman got away with murder. How do you respond to those people who say that?’ ” Maddy appears to reply promptly and confidently: “George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.” But that’s not quite how the exchange happened. In the unedited video, Roberts’ question is longer, with words that have been trimmed from the Nightline version, and Maddy pauses twice, for several seconds, as she struggles to answer it. “… George Zimmerman … That’s—George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can’t get away from God.”

You have to watch her, not just read her words, to pick up her meaning. As she struggles to answer, she looks as though she’s trying to reconcile the sentiment that’s been quoted to her—that Zimmerman “got away with murder”—with her own perspective. So she repeats the quote and adds words of her own, to convey what she thinks: that there’s a justice higher than the law, which Zimmerman will have to face. She thinks he’s morally culpable, not legally guilty.

2. She stands by the verdict. ABC’s online story about the interview ends with Maddy asking, “Did I go the right way? Did I go the wrong way?” But that’s not the whole quote. In the unedited video, she continues: “I know I went the right way, because by the law and the way it was followed is the way I went. But if I would have used my heart, I probably would have [gone for] a hung jury.” In another clip, she draws the same distinction: “I stand by the decision because of the law. If I stand by the decision because of my heart, he would have been guilty.” At one point, she says that “the evidence shows he’s guilty.” Roberts presses her: “He’s guilty of?” Maddy answers: “Killing Trayvon Martin. But as the law was read to me, if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally, you can’t say he’s guilty.” That’s the distinction she’s trying to draw here: Killing is one thing. Murder or manslaughter is another.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.