Why The Twitter Reaction to the Juror B37 Book About the Zimmerman Trial Is Not All Good

We at The Read Zone (or me, at least) have been doing our best to stay away from the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman tragedy and trial for the time being.  Heavy material for a new-ish blog, and besides, it has been covered up-and-down and through-and-through a thousand different ways already (mostly by idiots, but you can find some credible news and analysis out there if you look hard enough).

One thing did interest me though: the outrage that was sparked when one of the jurors in the Zimmerman trial announced after the verdict was rendered that she was going to write a book about the experience.  (Buzzfeed, Uproxx)  Thanks to public pressure, the literary agent backed out of her deal and Juror B37 herself said she was not going to be writing a book.

Before the firestorm, the literary agent, Sharlene Martin, sent out this relatively vanilla press release:

“My hope is that people will read Juror B37’s book, written with her attorney husband, and understand the commitment it takes to serve and be sequestered on a jury in a highly publicized murder trial and how important, despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is to follow the letter of the law.  The reader will also learn why the jurors had no option but to find Zimmerman not guilty due to the manner in which he was charged and the content of the jury instructions.

(Source: ABC)

Fairly innocuous, I thought, but the internet and print media were outraged.  (ABC News, Examiner.com).  The Urban Daily put it thusly:

“Girl. Get your life.  Clearly I wasn’t having it, but neither were thousands of people on Twitter… appalled that a book publisher would even think to want to put out a book of this matter, the killing of a 17-year-old child.”

Gawker called it “outrageous” and the Source said the deal “never should have been made.”

The reaction appears to have been the most violent on Twitter, where one user, @MoreAndAgain (who also goes as “Cocky McSwagsalot” … yes, seriously) started collecting information and beginning a campaign to pressure her to drop Juror B37:

And when the book was “canceled” (we’ll see about that) there was much relief and joy.  People  have gone so far as to hail Twitter user @MoreAndAgain as a “hero,” but I’m not so sure.

Jurors write books all the time.  People buy books written by jurors all the time.

Without getting into it (my co-founder would kill me), those who are upset with the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, in large part, found their complaints in the perceived ignorance or incompetence of others: the racism of George Zimmerman, the incompetence of the prosecution or the judge, the racism of the jury, the conduct of the Sanford police department, and so on and so forth.

Juror B37’s book, at least according to the statement Ms. Martin released initially, would be an interesting and topical look into the justice system.  Sure, she stood to make some (or a lot) of money in releasing the book, but by all accounts it appeared to be an insightful take on a societally important trial.

A book chronicling the trial might have shed light on the issues listed above, and have helped to forward a public dialogue on matters important to the trial, such as the race issues and legislative issues (such as Florida’s controversial self-defense statute) that people are so upset about right now.  Ironically, such an outcome could serve to combat the ignorance that those anti-book folks have complained about.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that twitter and other aspects of social media and the internet (such as change.org) give voices to the people, and allow ordinary folks to mobilize to action.  However, Spider-Man teaches us that with great power comes great responsibility.  People should still be careful to ensure that they are on the side of reasoned justice, and not simply part of a digital lynch mob.

By protesting the book on the basis that people did not like the outcome of the trial, we are only propagating ignorance.  Regardless of whether you think Zimmerman was truly guilty or innocent (still not telling you what I think) this knee-jerk reaction to block the book was the wrong call.

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Brian Mangan is an attorney in New York City, and thinks if we protested everything that we found distasteful, there would be no time in the day to do anything else.

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