Rev. Jesse Jackson faults Zimmerman jurors’ ‘own cultural biases’

Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson holds an impromptu news conference outside the NAACP convention in Orlando.
(Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

ORLANDO — The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke about Trayvon Martin before appearing at the NAACP national convention here Wednesday morning, faulting the jury that acquitted Martin’s killer for being biased and relying on the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, noting that he has been investigating other such cases involving blacks.

“The jury was not representative,” Jackson said of the six women, five of them white, who acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday. “Now they are showing their own cultural biases” he said in interviews.

“The fact is, they ignored the best information,” Jackson said.


He said the case “exposed how ludicrous” Florida’s stand your ground law is, “making life more dangerous for all of us.”

He noted cases of alleged police brutality against blacks across the country.

“A wave of nameless fear is gripping our country” in the wake of such attacks and the death of Martin, Jackson said.

He said Martin would likely join the pantheon of civil rights figures, including Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, whose deaths galvanized protesters and lawmakers to improve civil rights laws.

“Often the blood of martyrs forces change in America,” Jackson said. Later he told the convention, “The crucifixion of Medgar Evers drove the spirit of the 1963 civil rights movement. Today that figure is Trayvon Martin.”

Jackson called on the United Nations to hold a hearing on “the plight of black males” in the U.S., where he said many are disproortionately arrested and jailed.

“Trayvon illuminates a real deep darkness in America,” he said.

Jackson said he met Tuesday with Marissa Alexander “in her jail cell.”

“I prayed with her. She is strong in her faith,” Jackson said.

He detailed Alexander’s case, how she fired a gun to ward off her allegedly abusive husband, who later said he feared for his life.

Alexander, 31, was charged with three counts of aggravated assault by the same special prosecutor who charged Zimmerman: State Atty. Angela Corey, who is based in Jacksonville.

Although Alexander’s husband acknowledged in a deposition that he threatened to kill her, the mother of three was sentenced to 20 years in prison under a mandatory minimum law that requires someone who fires a gun during an aggravated assault to serve 20 years.

Jackson said he went to Corey’s office Tuesday, trying to advocate for Alexander. He said he was able to reach Corey by phone.

“I made an appeal to her to reconsider,” Jackson said, “her answer was that she had already offered a three-year plea deal. But she [Alexander] has already served three years.”

Jackson asked those at the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People convention who knew someone in jail to raise their hands, and more than a dozen went up.

“There may be some more Trayvons. There’s a Trayvon called Oscar Grant in Oakland. There’s a Trayvon in New York called Amadou Diallou,” Jackson said, to applause.

The crowd of several thousand rose to there feet as Jackson began chanting.

“It’s hope time. It’s healing time!” he said, closing with his signature line: “Keep hope alive.”


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Times staff writer Ben Mueller in Los Angeles contributed to this report.