We naturally recoil at such questions because they offend our sense of justice. We trust juries because there is no better alternative. By our consent to the process, we are putting our faith in the better angels of man's nature. We console ourselves with the knowledge that jurors typically take their jobs seriously and try to be fair.
But history also reminds us that intentions are not reliable predictors of behavior. We tend our biases in secret, sometimes even from ourselves, and we project our own experiences onto others. Even the president of the United States stepped forward to identify himself with Martin, about whom he said, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
What is this if not racial identification? And is the president's statement itself prejudicial to jurors who, wanting not to appear racist, may be more inclined to convict?
In our racially diverse, proudly multicultural nation, it isn't clear whether a jury of one's peers is possible. Whatever the outcome, the Zimmerman trial will force us to confront our own biases — a necessary step toward the aspiration we call blind justice.
Kathleen Parker's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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