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Race perhaps simplest disagreement in Zimmerman post-trial CNN interviews

By David Simpson, for CNN
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Juror B37 appears in exclusive "AC 360" interview
  • Star witness Rachel Jeantel talks to Piers Morgan
  • Each offer starkly different takes

(CNN) -- Juror B37 found it hard to understand what witness Rachel Jeantel was talking about.

And after the jurors acquitted George Zimmerman in the death of Jeantel's friend Trayvon Martin, the feeling certainly was mutual.

After a trial that divided many Americans by their views on race, guns and self-defense, CNN's exclusive interviews with the witness and the juror Monday night illustrated their starkly different frames of reference.

Juror: 'No doubt' that Zimmerman feared for his life

They disagreed about whether Zimmerman racially profiled Martin when he saw him walking through a Sanford, Florida, neighborhood.

But much more than race separated their perception of what happened the evening of February 26, 2012.

Jeantel: Trayvon Martin was not a thug
Juror: I felt sorry for Rachel Jeantel
Jeantel recounts Trayvon's last moments

When is it reasonable to suspect wrongdoing by a teenager walking through a neighborhood? Is a neighborhood watch volunteer a helpful member of the community or a "cracka" trying to wear the authority of a police officer? Does the jargon of a 19-year-old witness demonstrate her lack of education or an older generation's lack of awareness?

Jeantel 'upset, angry' by verdict

The role of race

Race was perhaps the simplest disagreement.

"It was racial. Let's be honest, racial. If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that happen?" the 19-year-old Jeantel asked on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live."

But the juror, who requested anonymity and sat in darkness on CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," said the jury of six women -- five white and one an unspecified minority -- never talked about racial profiling.

"I think all of us thought race did not play a role," she said.

Martin's movement

So why did Zimmerman suspect Martin might be up to no good?

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Juror: I felt sorry for Rachel Jeantel
Prosecutor: Zimmerman a 'murderer'

The juror sided with Zimmerman's account, and said Martin "was cutting through the back" of the neighborhood "looking into houses."

"He was stopping and starting," she said. "It was late at night, dark at night, raining. And anybody would think anybody walking down the road, stopping and turning and looking, if that's exactly what happened, is suspicious."

Not to Jeantel.

It was shortly after 7 p.m., she said, a time when typically people might be out walking their dogs, not plotting burglaries.

And if anyone should have been alarmed, it was Martin, she said.

He told her in their now-famous phone call that a man was following him, and she said she warned him it could be a rapist.

Parents tell children to fear such people, Jeantel said. Otherwise, "you're going to see your child on the news, missing person."

She expressed disbelief any of the jurors who were parents would not understand that.

Juror B37 did not disclose biographical information in her CNN interview. According to HLN, CNN's sister network, she has been married 20 years and has two adult children.

Despite outrage, federal charges uncertain in Zimmerman case

'Phrases I have never heard'

Jeantel testified Martin told her on the phone that a "creepy-ass cracka" was following him as he returned home from a convenience store run for a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea.

In the CNN interview, she said "cracka" is a term for someone who wants to act like a police officer. She said it was not the same as calling a white person a "cracker."

The juror didn't take "cracka" as a racial slur but an indication of "the type of life that they live ... and the environment they're living in."

"A lot of the times she was using phrases I have never heard before," the juror said.

Fringe protestors turn violent in LA after verdict

Generational divide?

She did not find Jeantel credible, the juror said, but "I felt very sorry for her. ... I think she felt inadequate toward everyone because of her education and communication skills."

When Piers Morgan played that clip for Jeantel, the teen said she felt upset and also misunderstood. She said she has a speech impediment due to an underbite. And her vocabulary is odd only to older people, she said.

The jurors, she said, are "old-school people. We (are) in a new school, our generation, my generation."

Perhaps they judged her as uneducated, Jeantel said, but she said she felt criticized for being "too honest."

Her generation uses "cracka" and even a variation of the N-word as a non-racial term for any man, she said.

"The jury's so shocked what I said, and they're acting like the generation we got now don't say that."

Now that he's free, can Zimmerman make a living?

Impressions of Zimmerman

Not surprisingly, they came to vastly different conclusions about the defendant.

"I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done," the juror said.

Jeantel called Zimmerman "scary" and branded him "weak" for declining to testify at his trial.

"If you were a real man, you would've stand on that stage and tell what happened," she said.

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