Back when I was a fresh-faced college graduate, I got called to jury duty down in Philadelphia.
It was a federal case, since many of the alleged crimes had happened across state lines, and the defendant, Andre Henry, was a black man. That last detail shouldn’t matter, but it very obviously did during jury selection and then again while we deliberated over the verdict.
I was selected for the jury because, in a pool of people 40-years and older, my 24-year-old self was clearly the youngest in the room… and as such probably racially indoctrinated to see all minorities as victims. I could see all of the stereotypes and their implications play out in the [white] defense attorney’s slimy smile, and I’m sure that he regarded the three black women and one black man who ended up on the jury in the same exact way.
It turned out that he was right about them though, of course, he was dead wrong about me. And, to this day, I still wonder why I didn’t look him dead in the eye and tell him “I’m a Republican and I believe in the death penalty.” That would have knocked me off of his must-have list in a heartbeat.
In some ways though, I’m happy that I didn’t.
That way, I got to sit in on a federal trial involving some 23 counts of varying crimes, including the attempted murder of a grand jury witness, who happened to also be his baby mama. I got to hear nearly three weeks’ worth of evidence laid out in front of me by the prosecution and a mere hour or two by the defense, the latter of which literally revolved around the claim that “my twin brother did it,” even though Henry didn’t actually have a twin brother. And I got to see otherwise decent people – my fellow jurors, who I got along very well with – acting with an appalling lack of intelligence and self-dignity.
By the end of the trial, there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Andre Henry was guilty on every single count. His alibi was preposterous, his attitude cocky, and the evidence against him overwhelming, with witnesses identifying him and a wiretap catching him trying to make deals to kill his ex-girlfriend.
Like I said: Overwhelming.
Yet for all of that, the three black women still had to look at photos of him and his “twin” brother before they were ready to declare him guilty. And the black man kept us “deliberating” for the rest of the day, the following day and the next morning before he finally caved to the obvious… all because he didn’t want to put another black man behind bars.
He didn’t do it to waste his fellow jurors’ time, or burn through unnecessary tax dollars that didn’t need to be spent , or make a mockery out of the legal system. But he did all of that because he was too focused on race rather than justice.
So it’s not surprising to hear that the George Zimmerman trial “has been such a contentious case that even the evidence is being disputed,” all because he shot a young black man, Trayvon Martin. It’s tragic and it’s terrifying, but it’s not surprising.
We’ve been teaching modified history and modified ethics and modified logic to the public for decades now. So it’s really no surprise then that we’re now getting modified justice.