It seems there are very few people who relish the idea of being on a jury. It’s time-consuming, and on the rare occasions when it’s not mind-numbingly boring, you might end up on a nationally broadcast, high-profile case that deals with issues of race and gun violence that many in this country have refused to acknowledge or accept.
But there are some (too many, probably) who want to profit from their 15 minutes of judicial fame. This includes Juror B37, the first juror to speak publicly after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. Juror B37 announced (and has since rescinded, but I’ll get to that in a second) her intention to publish a book about the trial, her struggles as a member of the jury, and the reasoning behind the verdict. Sharlene Martin, the agent who picked up the book deal for Martin Literary Management, said in a statement that she hoped “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.”
These are valid stories to be told, but right now, I’d like to offer my resounding cry of “Too soon, bro” — but I’m sure enough people have said that already. Much of the country is still in mourning over what many view as institutional racism, a gun-happy populace, or a frightening legal system that seems to reward the aggressor. Most people responded to B37’s book idea with disgust, a collective shaking of the head. But one Twitter user (with the delightful name Cocky McSwagsalot) decided to do something about it.
McSwagsalot reached out to Martin, urging her to shut down the project and persuading others to do the same, sharing Martin’s contact info so she was soon flooded with complaints. She started a Change.org petition, which quickly reached over 1,000 signatures. Faced with this sudden intense backlash, Martin retracted her offer of a book deal — contacting McSwagsalot personally to tell her the news. Thanks to a Twitter user with a silly name, this exploitative and poorly timed project will not be happening — at least not yet.
There have been debates (including on PolicyMic) about what it is about Trayvon Martin’s story that has gripped our attention so fiercely. Is it about race? Is it about gun control? Is it about a broken justice system? We might never be able to know for sure. But allowing the people involved in this horrible tragedy to gain fame and fortune because of our addiction to sensational stories is wrong. Of course, B37 might go through with it in a few years, as is her right — but not now. Now, we need a moment to collectively catch our breath.
So, in a phrase I never thought I’d type: Thank you, Cocky McSwagsalot. The Trayvon Martin story is difficult enough for our country to get a handle on — it doesn’t need a best-selling book to seal the deal.