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

in Entertainment

Third ‘Night at the Museum’ marks final film for Williams, Rooney

nightatthemuseum

The credits for "Secret of the Tomb," which opens Friday, read "In loving memory of Mickey Rooney," and "For Robin Williams - the magic never ends."

in Music

Ray Price’s widow opens up after loss

FILE - In a Jan. 7, 2011, file photo, Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grammy Award winner Ray Price celebrates his 86th birthday by performing in Bullard Texas. Price, one of country music's most popular and influential singers and bandleaders who had more than 100 hits and was one of the last living connections to Hank Williams, died Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. He was 87.

Ray Price's widow refused to leave her house for four months in the aftermath of her husband's death.

in Entertainment

Chris Pratt thought ‘Guardians’ would be a box office flop

Guardians Of The Galaxy

The "Parks and Rec" star was very, very wrong.