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

grumpy

It is a State law... or regulation that the prosecutor can bring some lessor charges after the defense rests. As long as the sitting judge allows it. I highly doubt it was a surprise to anyone who knew Florida law and how the courts work there. The media is just trying to make a story out of it.

I am sure he would have included following Martin and getting out of his truck except for one reason... those things aren't against any law... in any state, not just Florida.

grumpy

Sure it was political. The lead investigator believed Zimmerman and didn't advise charging him, the police chief didn't think the facts and evidence was there to charge him either. The chief lost his job... the lead investigator was broke to patrolman, the prosecutor didn't think there was enough to charge Zimmerman, and wouldn't be pressured into doing so. It took 6 weeks for enough political pressure to be ginned up before the Governor appointed a special prosecutor whose only job was to bring charges. Those who were hands on in the case still believe he was railroaded into court, and the lead investigator said he believed Zimmermans account and the evidence he provided under oath at the trial. The judge had to go to the jury the next day and tell them to disregard that testimony.... after she had to remind them what he said... kind of hard to disregard what he swore to... and then to have the judge repeat it... memorable to say the least. Yeah when you realize what all had to be done to even get charges brought against Zimmerman it has to be political.

I meant this as a reply to Contango.

The Big Dog's back

Arguing with yourself pooh? ROFLMAO!

Contango

Can you say political show trial?

Zimmerman's guilt had already been decided by the race-baiting left wingnuts and politicos, now they just need to decide the proper punishment.

What ever it takes in order to help satisfy the blood thirsty hate-filled bigoted masses.

Remember:

"We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends."

- Barack Obama

santown419

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

goofus

After hearing the judge berating Zimmerman and bypassing his lawyers about testifying I am smelling the stench of Obozo. What's next, DOJ funding the counter protest, oh wait they are!!! Such a corrupt administration!!!

tk

The Judge didn't berate Zimmerman. She berated his attorney Don West for continually interrupting her. Judges certainly do ask the defendants if this is their decision when it comes to the option of testifying or not. This is their chance to speak up. They can't later claim that they didn't have the option.

badboy

West was correct in objecting. It is inappropriate for the judge to ask that question before the defense had completed their case.

The Big Dog's back

Obviously you don't know Florida law, because if you did you wouldn't be repeating something you heard on Fox news.

grumpy

The thing that was not normal in the judge asking if Zimmerman was going to testify is that judges wait till all the witnesses for the defense have been called. Then is when the judge asks the defendant if he wants to testify. The judge can, and usually does inform him that it is his decision, not his lawyers decision. He can testify if he chooses, whether his lawyer likes it or not. It is unusual for a judge to ask before the defense is done calling witnesses. It was not done in front of the jury. But was asked a second time in front of the jury, after the defense was done calling witnesses, which is normal.

tk

Did you actually watch this trial? They were done calling witnesses. The defense couldn't rest their case until Zimmerman made his decision.

grumpy

The first time the judge asked there were 2 more witnesses called. She asked before the jury came back in. The second time she asked was when the defense was done, and the jury was in the courtroom.

The Big Dog's back

In any other trial west would be sitting in jail for contempt.

grumpy

Want to cite something for proof of your statement? The judge asked this out of accepted practice. If she had cited him it would have been overturned in judicial review and the judge could have been censured, or given a nice talking to. A judge can do as she pleases as long as it follows common practices, this didn't.

The Big Dog's back

The Judge had to remind west 3 times of the "Rules of Conduct".
http://www.the-broad-side.com/ju...

grumpy

An opinion piece about a woman judge, in a women centric opinion blog? I'll wait till something from a legal journal comes out to get some real information. Thanks anyway. It does speak loudly about you though.

The Big Dog's back

We all know what you think of women.

The Big Dog's back

Gee goof, you and pooh with your man-crushes on Obama. Embarrassing.

goofus

Youns, liberal hacks, make up your own mind and not DNC misinformation like porch puppy

http://www.infowars.com/judge-in...

The Big Dog's back

Alex Jones? Really?

goofus

I know that the leftists on this blog will harp about the source and not the information, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon,Obozo said that!!!!

The Big Dog's back

So what?

grumpy

If I had a brother he would have looked like the ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who was killed 9-11-12 in Libya.

The Big Dog's back

Obama couldn't say that about Chris Stevens for obvious reasons.

grumpy

His father didn't hang around long enough for a second kid?

santown419

To bad yours didn't either.

grumpy

Yes it would have been nice if he hadn't died when I was a baby.

santown419

To bad yours didn't either.

santown419

To bad yours didn't either.

The Big Dog's back

If I had a son he would look like one of the over 5,000 killed in Iraq.

santown419

Isn't your uncle your brother

Observant

"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."

UMMMM.....CONJECTURE?!? His atty must suck. Too bad.

gramafun

this isn't about who looks like who or that one attorney got "chewed up " by the judge. It IS about the second lessor charge placed by the prosecutor on Zimmerman at the last moment. It makes one feel that the prosecutor may not have such a great case on Murder 1 and needs the lessor charge to get any conviction. I wonder why they waited to long to add it.

deertracker

The charge was murder 2 not 1. That said, manslaughter should have been the original charge. Murder is difficult to prove. Casey Anthony comes to mind. O.J. too! I don't think his intention was to kill anyone that night but he did. If you are scared you don't follow the monster. Kids know that!

Contango

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights) and Libel and defamation.

deertracker

We get it pooh. Actually, we got it the first hundred times you wrote it. Is Zimmerman white or Hispanic?

grumpy

Are you asking about his race or ethnicity? One of your choices is race, the other is ethnicity, they don't denote the same thing.

deertracker

Semantics? Is he white or not?

grumpy

Are you trying to claim the trial is about race? If so I didn't hear the lawyers from either side make any reference to it, why are you trying to make it about race? Can't prove the case with evidence so you try to grasp any straw?

And no it is not semantics. Words have meanings and if you are trying to get a point across and use words that don't convey what you mean it is a worthless statement. It would mean nothing.

deertracker

You are trying to turn this conversation into one of race. Nice try. Wrong guy!

grumpy

You are the one asking what race the defendant is, also what ethncity he is.

Contango

Re: "Is he white or not?"

Race should not be the issue. We are either a nation of laws or a nation of men.

The race-baiters want the latter.

deertracker

POOH, you can hurl all the insults and name calling you want. Your words have NO power!

Contango

Re: "Your words have NO power!"

A prejudicial Obama-hole would think that.

The Big Dog's back

So pooh, at what point of your repeated lies do they become true? 2 times? 5 times? How many? You too sock puppet (grumpy).

Contango

Re: "Is Zimmerman white or Hispanic?"

"Zimmerman has a Peruvian mother and a white father."

Hispanics can often be a combination of Native Americans and Spanish.

You figure it out.

http://www.policymic.com/article...

Only a brain dead Obama-hole would believe that this case AIN'T political.

OMG.LOL.WT_

In my humble opinion, there should never have been a trial. Could the reason be, afraid of riots? Now that the state sees it can't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they say how about a lesser charge. They want to get him regardless. Political? Yes.

deertracker

It is not uncommon to include lesser charges in these types of trial. All of you seem to forget that a young boy is dead thru no fault of his own. Zimmerman's account of what happened does not seem truthful to me! I just don't think it is political in nature.

grumpy

A broken nose and lacerations on the head of Zimmerman belie your statement of thru no fault of his own. But don't let evidence sway your bias.

deertracker

Should have stayed in his car Tigger! You don't pursue, follow, or whatever word suits you if you are soooooooooooooo scared!

grumpy

What law did either break before Martin belted Zimmerman in the nose?

The Big Dog's back

I don't know for sure because I wasn't there. Oh wait, neither were you.

grumpy

You are 100% correct. That is called reasonable doubt. That is all the defense has to prove. You just made their case for them.

It is not maybe happened, coulda happened, shoulda happened, in some hypothetical way. The prosecutor has to prove what happened and how it happened, and who did what. He didn't. Doesn't matter that there were no witnesses, video, or anything else. The prosecutor has to prove who did what to whom, not that this is how it could have happened, not this is probably how it happened. He has to prove how and what happened, if he doesn't it is cause for reasonable doubt. That is the way the law is supposed to work, no guessing, no maybes, proof.

The defense doesn't have to prove what happened. The prosecutor does have to prove what happened. Thus the term reasonable doubt. That is all the defense has to do, show that there is reasonable doubt about the unsubstantiated claims of the prosecutor

deertracker

Trayvon sure can't tell us and he was there! The prosecutor can prove who is DEAD!

grumpy

And that trumps reasonable doubt, in what way? But that is only if you wish to follow the judicial way. You seem to simply want revenge, that doesn't require proof, so it seems to be right up your alley. That would also be against the law. Keep grasping for straws.

The Big Dog's back

Let's see, 1 person stalking and armed with a gun, and 1 person with skittles and tea. The person stalking and armed with the gun shot and killed the person with skittles and tea. The person stalking and armed with a gun, alive and well. The person with the skittles and tea, DEAD!

grumpy

Wonderful way to skip through the events and evidence of what happened to spotlight only the things you wish to.

If that is all that happened why did the trial last as long as it did? Are you another who is only interested in revenge instead of following the law? It sounds suspiciously like you are. Do you know that revenge is against the law? Or is it that you don't care about the law?

The Big Dog's back

Ahhhhh actually it was a short trial compared to other high profile trials.

deertracker

Agreed! Tigger, if one of your cubs were shot and killed on the way home, what would you do? Would you just say "Oh well"?

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.