Judge: Zimmerman jury may consider lesser charge

Judge: Zimmerman jury may consider lesser charge

George Zimmerman arrives for his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida July 11, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Gary W. Green/Pool

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) – Jurors in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman may also consider convicting him of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, a judge ruled on Thursday.

In a victory for Florida state prosecutors, Judge Debra Nelson issued her ruling before prosecutors were scheduled to deliver closing arguments Thursday in the case which has captivated and polarized much of the U.S. public, and which generated a wave of street demonstrations last year.

Nelson has yet to rule on a second option of third-degree felony murder based upon child abuse. Martin, at age 17, was a minor.

Defense lawyer Don West objected to the child abuse charge as a “trick,” based on some evidence that Martin was pummeling Zimmerman in a fight before Zimmerman pulled out his gun.

Nelson said she would rule on the matter later.

West also complained that prosecutors had proposed the third-degree murder option early on Thursday. As of Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors had indicated they would seek a second option of aggravated assault.

Nelson’s ruling on manslaughter was a victory for the prosecution, which wanted the sequestered, all-female jury to have the option of choosing the so-called lesser included offense, which still carries a potentially lengthy sentence.

Zimmerman could be sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for manslaughter.

The defense preferred an “all or nothing” choice on second-degree murder, confident they had shown Zimmerman acted in self-defense and concerned the jury might opt for what lead defense lawyer Mark O’Mara described as a “compromise verdict.”

Zimmerman’s detractors see him as a racial profiler who considered Martin suspicious because the teenager was black, and blame the defendant for unnecessarily pulling out his Kel Tec 9mm pistol, which was fully loaded with hollow-point bullets.

Backers of liberal gun laws have rallied behind Zimmerman and helped fund his defense, seeing him as a persecuted hero who personifies the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Latest Headlines

in Sports

Royals players get $370K bonus for World Series win


The World Series champion Kansas City Royals generously split up their Fall Classic players' pool haul of more than $25 million into 55 full shares worth $370,069 apiece, Major League baseball said on Monday.

in Music

Dee Snider approves of Trump’s song use


The Twisted Sister star gave Donald Trump permission to use the track during his campaign because the businessman-turned-politician represents "rebellion, speaking your mind and fighting the system."

in Sports

Tigers still No. 1, Oklahoma up to third


The 12-0 Tigers picked up 53 of the 61 first-place votes after holding off South Carolina.

in Sports

Broncos spoil Patriots’ perfect record with OT win


Recognizing the run play that was called likely would go nowhere against the New England Patriots' defensive alignment, Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler audibled to a different one. The result was electric.

in Sports

Kobe Bryant retiring


Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, arguably the best player of his generation, announced on Sunday he will retire after the 2015-16 National Basketball Association season.