Why We All Deserve Blame for Bad Verdicts

The outcome of the George Zimmerman trial reminds us why evading jury duty is no laughing matter.

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There's no guarantee that the outcome in the Zimmerman trial would have been different. But perhaps it would have taken them more time to reach a consensus. When a group of people with different perspectives have a conversation about a tough topic, it tends to inspire vigorous, prolonged debate, something that does not appear to have happened during the deliberations that the Zimmerman jury engaged in.

According to juror B37, the jury did not believe that race was an issue. (It's worth noting that her fellow jurors have since said she does not speak for them.) I have a hard time believing that race would have been treated as a nonissue had there been a black person -- or someone who had spent substantive time with a black person -- serving on the jury.

It's possible that potential jurors who might have shared this perspective with their fellow jurors knew too much about the case in advance to be selected for the jury. But it is also possible that they felt they simply couldn't afford to take time off of work, read one of the articles on "how to get out jury duty" and succeeded in doing so.

We'll never know. But what I do know is that in 1955 an all-white jury acquitted two men for the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till -- a murder that the men would later confess to in a magazine interview. Now, nearly 60 years later, a jury without a single black person on it acquitted George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

So the next time I get called for jury duty, instead of being annoyed and thinking of the inconvenience, I will think of Trayvon Martin and I will treat the summons as what it is: an honorable way to contribute to our democracy, and one of the few things I will ever do that may potentially save, or vindicate, a life. 

Keli Goff is The Root's special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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