G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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This might be a perfect Slate pitch if the right person wrote it and the outlet had any sort of intellectual curiosity whatsoever. It’s been widely suggested that an all-female jury might be sympathetic to Trayvon Martin because of the mere fact that he died, regardless of the circumstances leading to that death. That fact may resonate with emotional jurors. And, the theory goes, women tend to be more driven by sympathetic emotions than men.
Let me establish up front that everybody who actually deals with juries and psychological profiles understands that there are differences between male and female jurors. It’s only people who dabble in utopian fantasies that don’t accept these differences. Those types of people would make the worst lawyers, but they’re more likely to fight for social justice. It’s quite a dilemma.
I touched on this specific way that female jurors might misunderstand what happened between Zimmerman and Martin. They might not understand that calling a dude a “cracka” is like calling him a “motherfucker” which is an aggressive pejorative. It’s not like “dick” or something which is a pejorative uttered by pissed off people who don’t want a confrontation.
I don’t know if women, generally, can get inside the mind of a 17 year-old black kid. And it’s the defense’s case that would be bolstered by getting into that psychology. This inability of the jurors to identify with or understand someone so foreign to them may actually and ironically end up harming Zimmerman’s defense.
Nancy Grace last night had a female psychoanalyst on her show who was shrieking about how a “fragile” and “scared” “boy” like Martin could go from “running home” to turning around to confront Zimmerman. A woman would have a harder time identifying with a teenager, especially one raised in a culture which hates crackers (white people in general but especially white (looking) people who try to exert authority of any kind; Martin’s ideas about crackas and cops and Zimmerman were displayed vicariously through Jeantel who viewed Don West as a cracka himself, I’m sure).
There are two ways to explain Martin’s movements that evening. Both are motivated by a very basic flight instinct, and both could have been channeled into a strong fight instinct when the opportunity presented itself.
Martin’s initial decision to run when he saw Zimmerman watching him could be said to be motivated by some basic level of fear. Even if he hadn’t done anything wrong at that point he had the instinct to run from that potential threat of being “caught out” by an authority figure – a “cracka”. Martin saw Zimmerman on the phone and could be expected to have assumed that the cops were being called on him. The characterization of Martin’s alleged “creepy” comment as an indication that Martin truly was in fear of depraved personal attack does not match up with what was more likely to be a stronger fear of being arrested. Do women, in general, understand what it’s like to have a kneejerk reaction to run from authority? No, when women run away it is because they are truly afraid of physical harm.
But Martin wasn’t all that afraid – not “Jason is chasing me in the woods” afraid to say the least. He could have made it to the condo where he was staying, but he didn’t. He took his time as he told Rachel Jeantel that he wasn’t going to run home. He reacted to the potential threat of a police presence, and perhaps he had a twinge of fear when he saw that Zimmerman was still following him. Reminds us of a lyric from this song.
Very often, fear triggers aggression. Fight and flight are intertwined that way. I don’t expect many women to understand that either. They tend to just opt for flight – or maybe to “tend and befriend” – so if they believe that Martin was at all in flight mode then they would assume that he wouldn’t just switch to fight mode. But the volatility of the male mind – and that of a black teenage male at that who might harbor some ill will towards “crackas” – is such that the initial flight instinct (if it was there for Martin) might actually trigger an even stronger shame-based fight instinct.
So the inability of female jurors to recognize why a black teenager would both run from, double back towards, and then confront a “creepy ass cracka” might end up hurting Zimmerman’s defense.
You figure by now someone would have broached the topic of auditory recall in regards to Rachel Jeantel. The ear and eyewitnesses who lived in Zimmerman’s neighborhood all gave statements almost immediately to police about what they saw or heard. But Jeantel is still held as the star witness even though she only heard on phone what went down between Zimmerman and Martin and despite the fact that she is the only witness who would have a bias towards one of the two even before the incident. That’s opposed to the other witnesses who, though some have become biased after the fact, likely had no strong bias towards either beforehand.
Jeantel didn’t think she would be a witness. She didn’t think what she heard was all that important. She didn’t watch the news. She thought the cops are supposed to track down witnesses. She thought Zimmerman was arrested already and didn’t even think about the phone call until several weeks later. The logical question then is what are the odds that this woman would be able to accurately remember what she heard on the phone? Throw in her “lack of sophistication” and you have two affects limiting her auditory recall.