Jury in Zimmerman trial may consider lesser charge

Six jurors will have three options for Zimmerman when they start deliberations as early as Friday: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter or not guilty.
Associated Press
Jul 11, 2013

In an unmistakable setback for George Zimmerman, the jury at the neighborhood watch captain's second-degree murder trial was given the option Thursday of convicting him on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Judge Debra Nelson issued her ruling over the objections of Zimmerman's lawyers shortly before a prosecutor delivered a closing argument in which he portrayed the defendant as an aspiring police officer who assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands.

"A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jurors. "He is dead because a man made assumptions. ... Unfortunately because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks this Earth."

Because of the judge's ruling, the six jurors will have three options when they start deliberations as early as Friday: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter and not guilty.

Zimmerman attorney Don West had argued an all-or-nothing strategy, saying the only charge that should be put before the jury is second-degree murder.

"The state has charged him with second-degree murder. They should be required to prove it," West said. "If they had wanted to charge him with manslaughter ... they could do that."

To win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove Zimmerman showed ill will, hatred or spite — a burden the defense has argued the state failed to meet. To get a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

Allowing the jurors to consider manslaughter could give those who aren't convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the death of the unarmed teen, said David Hill, an Orlando defense attorney with no connection to the case.

"From the jury's point of view, if they don't like the second-degree murder — and I can see why they don't like it — he doesn't want to give them any options to convict on lesser charges," Hill said of the defense attorney.

Because of the way Florida law imposes longer sentences for crimes committed with a gun, manslaughter could end up carrying a penalty as heavy as the one for second-degree murder: life in prison.

It is standard for prosecutors in Florida murder cases to ask that the jury be allowed to consider lesser charges that were not actually brought against the defendant. And it is not unusual for judges to grant such requests.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei also asked that the jury be allowed to consider third-degree murder, on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he shot the underage Martin. Zimmerman's lawyer called that "bizarre" and "outrageous," and the judge sided with the defense.

Zimmerman, 29, got into a scuffle with Martin after spotting the teen while driving through his gated townhouse complex on a rainy night in February 2012. Zimmerman has claimed he fired in self-defense after Martin sucker-punched him and began slamming his head into the pavement. Prosecutors have disputed his account and portrayed him as the aggressor.

During closing arguments, de la Rionda argued that Zimmerman showed ill will and hatred when he whispered profanities to a police dispatcher over his cellphone while following Martin through the neighborhood. He said Zimmerman "profiled" the teenager as a criminal.

"He assumed Trayvon Martin was a criminal," de la Rionda said. "That is why we are here."

The prosecutor told the jury that Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer and that's why he followed Martin. But "the law doesn't allow people to take the law into their own hands," de la Rionda said.

De la Rionda's two-hour presentation also included moments when he seemed to appeal to jurors' emotions by showing a head shot from Martin's autopsy and a face-up crime scene photo of Martin. Several jurors looked away.

The prosecutor also repeatedly asked why Zimmerman left his truck the night of the shooting.

"Why does this defendant get out of his car if he thought Trayvon Martin is a threat to him?" de la Rionda asked. "Why? Because he had a gun."

Later, when he straddled a foam mannequin to dispute Zimmerman's account of how the struggle unfolded, the entire back row of jurors stood. One juror even stepped down to get a better view.

De la Rionda implored jurors to believe the account of Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with him moments before the shooting and said she heard him yelling, "Get off!" The prosecutor asked jurors to discount her "colorful language," and he put a twist on a quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King to persuade them.

"She should be judged not by the color of her personality but by the content of her testimony," de la Rionda said.

Zimmerman's lawyers are expected to deliver their closing arguments Friday morning.

 

Comments

Huron_1969

I can see it now, the president interrupts your normal broadcast channel with an important announcement where he declares "we got him"! First I got bin Laden, now Zimmerman ! Everyone can sleep better tonight

deertracker

You've got it bad for Obama! You really need some help for that!

West

I surely hope that the feds have a secret indictment just waiting for Zimmerman if there isn't a guilty verdict obtained in this case. In any case, I sincerely hope that Zimmerman realizes that he brought this madness upon himself and his family.

bondgirlM

The very idea that the prosecution came back at the very end of the trial to ask if the jury can also consider a charge of a lesser value goes to prove that they know they did not do their job. They were grossly in neglect of their duties of trying to prove anything much less beyond a shadow of a doubt. This entire trial has been a joke. If I lived in that town in Florida I would demand that the prosecutor step down immediately. He can't argue a case he is merely into theatrics.

OMG.LOL.WT_

When you don't have evidence, what is left? Theatrics?

The Big Dog's back

This is done all the time, so why moan about it now? Ohhhhh, because Trayvon was Black, just like Obama. Now I get it.

grumpy

Wrong place to post

deertracker

Perfect place to post unless you are the only one with the truth!

grumpy

Correct, and now that the verdict is in, we know where the truth lies, at least the only truth that matters.

grumpy

repeated

grumpy

This can be done in the state of Florida, and is not unusual for it to be done there. The judge has the discretion to allow other, lesser charges. She let in manslaughter, and didn't allow 3rd degree murder due to child abuse. That was a bridge too far.

It is not allowed in Ohio, they can't add lesser charges after the charges are accepted in court the first time. Unless the defense agrees to let the lesser charges in.

This belongs in a reply to bomdgirlM. The website won't allow me to do that thus the repeated posts.

bondgirlM

I was not speaking on the legalities of the added charges just the fact that it shows the prosecution knows they didn't do their job and they realize they probably can't get a conviction because there is no evidence of "murder". It is a clear cut case of self defense. So in the 11th hour they felt the necessity to add lesser charges to try to "get" Zimmerman on something.

eriemom

We have seen the avoidance of justice in the Jake Lombarios case in this area. I do not understand why folks cannot see how race could have played a part in the investigation, or lack of one. That was why the case gained national attention. Think about it. The investigators did not collect evidence properly right from the beginning. Doesn't this sound familiar? Justice for Treyvon. That was what his parents asked for.

bondgirlM

The mother of Martin made it clear in her speech, she did not just want justice she "wanted an arrest". Many Many self defense cases never result in an arrest or end with charges. Why this case? Only because Obama, Sharpton, etc. had to stick their noses in.

deertracker

Wrong! If it obvious no charges are brought but it was not obvious here. I'm sick of you people acting like this kid's life did not matter. Does your life matter?

grumpy

Martins life is not on trial. What is on trial, is did Zimmerman believe he was in danger for his life or great bodily harm. It doesn't surprise me that you don't know who or what is on trial. You are looking for revenge, not the rule of laws. Revenge is illegal, but then you don't care about the rule of law, as you have proved time and again. There are reasons why laws are written down, so they can't be changed to make idiots happy.

JohnDorian12

Bottom line is this, the prosecution knew their case was weak at best, so they bring in this "manslaughter" charge because no way he was going to get convicted on F2 murder, but I agree with what seems to be the common belief, that they will convict him on manslaughter just to satisfy the masses....what a joke

grumpy

If they wish to keep the masses from behaving badly they could just not agree, and become a hung jury. Kick the can down the road and let someone else deal with it, just like the gov't. It would be the easiest solution for the jury. Simply act like the current gov't.

Contango

What are the Zimmerman trial racist left-wing crazies gonna do when the trial's over?

No doubt the witless cable channels will find something else for them on which to focus their pea-sized brains.

Heck, after their ratings plummeted, even MSNBC pitched their left-wing crazy political garbage for trial coverage.

http://hotair.com/greenroom/arch...

Lean Forward and Fall Over. :)

Just follow the money.

The Big Dog's back

Trial is over poohbot.

arnmcrmn

Justice prevailed. Forensics pointed to self defense and it was. Young thug in a gated community up to no good, on the phone telling a girl he was going to teach this guy following him a lesson. Well, who got the best of who here?

Zimmerman could have walked away and not followed but he wasn't following him with the intent to kill, he was following him to see what this thug was up to. THAT is the definition of community watch program.

When I first moved into my private community, I was at the end of my drive way just glancing around at what I wanted to cut down (tree wise). A neighbor from down the road pulled up and asked me what I was doing here and if I was lost. Told him I just purchased the house and was trying to get an idea of some things that needed immediate attention in my yard. Conversation turned out really good and he let me know that he makes trips up and down the road 2-3 times a day and night to keep an eye out.

The Big Dog's back

I would have asked him WTFRU.

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