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.

Latest Headlines

in Local

Maine Heating Prices Continue to Drop

Fresh
GENERIC COUNTERFEIT MONEY

A state of Maine survey indicates the average price of heating oil has dropped 4 cents over the past week to the lowest heating season price recorded in three years.

in Local

3 Whooping Cough Cases at Anson School

Fresh
GENERIC SCHOOL

Three cases of whooping cough have been confirmed at an Anson elementary school and district officials have organized a public meeting to discuss prevention and response measures.

in Local

Gardiner Man Pleads Guilty To Robbing Pharmacy

Fresh
GENERIC PILLS

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A Gardiner man who robbed a Bridgton pharmacy of prescription painkillers on Thanksgiving Day last year has pleaded guilty.

in Local

2 East Millinocket Residents Face Drug Charges

GENERIC METH

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine (AP) - Two people have been arrested on charges that they were running a methamphetamine lab in East Millinocket.

in Local

Theft Charge For Ex-New Hampshire And Maine Fire Chief

GENERIC INVESTIGATION LARGE

FARMINGTON, N.H. (AP) - The former fire chief in Farmington has been indicted on charges he stole at least $1,500 in town funds.