News

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.

Recent Headlines

9 hours ago in Local

PDR Disabled You Deer Hunt Looks For Disabled Children

fawn_deer

The PDR Disabled Youth Deer Hunt is looking for disabled adolescents to attend a free whitetail deer hunt.

11 hours ago in Local

Gov Dayton Says Clinton is Best Qualified for President

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at New York University's Kaufman Management Center

Featuring: Hillary Clinton
Where: New York City, New York, United States
When: 24 Jul 2015
Credit: Dennis Van Tine/Future Image/WENN.com

**Not available for publication in Germany, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia**

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has maintained support for Presumptive Democratic Nominee, Hillary Clinton

12 hours ago in Local

Epidemiologist Warns of Ticks Over Memorial Day Weekend

Lake Oakwood Shore-approved-inhouse

With Memorial Day weekend just ahead, thousands of Nebraskans will be heading out on their first camping trips of the season -- and they'll need to take precautions against ticks.

13 hours ago in Local

Iowa Police Chief Retires

police to protect and to serve approved clipart

Officials in Iowa City will be looking for a new police chief. Sam Hargadine on Monday announced his retirement, effective June 30.

1 day ago in Local

Dairy Overlay District May Come Soon to Yankton

DairyCows

The Yankton County Commission will host a public meeting this week to talk about forming a dairy overlay district.