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.

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