From strict Stand Your Ground laws to a strict judge overseeing the Zimmerman trial working long hours and weekends and nights, the Zimmerman trial jury sequestration rules were anything but strict and allowed for unsupervised visits of up to two hours with family and friends during the weekends. According to an agreement obtained by WFTV and their reporter, Kathy Belich, after the trial concluded, Judge Nelson entered into an agreement allowing for unsupervised visits meaning alone time with family for up to two hours. Unsupervised means that potentially anything could be said or read without a sheriff or court personnel present during the visits. More disturbing is the fact that the media and public were not made aware of the arrangement during the trial. All that was known during the trial was the jurors would be away from their family during the trial.
The secrecy and undisclosed agreement during the trial is but one more insult to what many believe is an unjust verdict. If the jurors were allowed visits of two minutes, it would have been enough to taint the verdict. Two minutes is sufficient to sway a juror’s mind with a comment from a close family member. Now, presumably, the jurors were told to refrain from discussing the case or anything about the trial. And as we saw in court, jurors were always reminded of the instructions each time the court took a recess.
The secrecy on the limits of sequestration found only after the trial concluded only adds fuel to an already burning fire that the jury verdict was tainted. It started with the not guilty verdict, continued to juror B37’s TV interview and now this stunning and new revelation of unsupervised family time. Many African Americans who are distrustful of the criminal justice system working in their favor have one more example to show how the process can be compromised. And the fact that the sequestration agreement was not known to the media during the trial, although everything except bench conferences were live streamed, further leads to a more than bad taste in some people’s mouths.
The revelation of unsupervised family visits will not change the verdict. George Zimmerman cannot be re-tried. Double jeopardy disallows it. There are rules against juror misconduct. It’s unlikely that any family members will come forward to say they discussed the case. But with juror B37’s TV interview and possible book deal with her lawyer husband, just hours after the verdict, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to think that discussions did occur and possibly before the verdict.
The shroud of secrecy around the sequestration agreement further darkens an already dark moment in the outcome of the Zimmerman trial for many African Americans. Florida Stand Your Ground laws and judges, like Judge Nelson, can be strict when they want to be and relaxed when they should be strict. I previously applauded Judge Nelson’s presiding over the trial except she failed in perhaps, the most important function of the Zimmerman trial, jury sequestration.