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Thursday, April 24th, 2014

As Zimmerman Defense Rests, Judge Decides Jury Can Consider Manslaughter

George Zimmerman Trial Continues In FloridaIn one of the most important decisions in determining whether George Zimmerman goes to jail for shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, Judge Debra Nelson this morning ruled that the jury will be able to consider whether Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter instead of second degree murder.

It is a crucial distinction for the judge to make at the close of the trial because it dictates whether Zimmerman finds himself behind bars in the next couple of weeks or resting comfortably at home with his wife as a free man.

After the defense rested its case yesterday, with closing statements coming today and tomorrow, the jury could begin deliberating as early as Friday afternoon.

After deciding on the manslaughter charge, Judge Nelson postponed her decision on whether the jury could consider a charge of third-degree murder after attorney Don West angrily objected to the charge, which according to prosecutors is based on the idea that Zimmerman committed child abuse in killing Martin.

“Oh my God,” West said to the judge. “Just when I thought this case couldn’t get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third-degree murder based on child abuse.”

Prosecutors are hoping to give jurors more options. West said in court that Zimmerman believes because the “state has charged him with second-degree murder, they should be required to prove it, if they can.”

Many observers have concluded that the state failed to meet its burden of proof for second-degree murder, but the jury might be interested in a compromise verdict of manslaughter, which would still make Zimmerman pay for provoking the conflict and killing the teen.

But Zimmerman’s lead attorney Mark O’Mara told reporters yesterday that he wasn’t interested in a compromise verdict. After resting his case, O’Mara said the jury’s only option should be the second-degree murder charge brought by prosecutors.

The attorney said that if the jurors are unable to convict Zimmerman of murder, then he should be acquitted because the shooting on Feb. 26, 2012, was intentional.

“We don’t want a compromise verdict, just like we don’t want a jury pardon,” O’Mara said. “We want a verdict based on the facts of the law and that’s an acquittal.”

“What George did was an intentional act that he knew he was pulling the trigger, the reason why he did it was self defense and that doesn’t suggest the manslaughter charge would be appropriate,” he said.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda is scheduled to give closing arguments today at 1 p.m. ET, while O’Mara will give closing arguments for the defense on Friday morning.

Judge Nelson said the case could be sent to the all-female jury as early as Friday.

Though his lawyers were able to prevail on Zimmerman to decline from testifying, the jury saw several video recordings of Zimmerman telling his side to investigators, stating that he shot Martin because the teen was on top of him and had punched him and slammed his head into the ground.

O’Mara told reporters that Zimmerman wanted to testify on his behalf.

“I think he really wanted to be able to interact with this jury and say to them `This is what I did and this is why I did it. And as importantly, this is what was happening to me at the time that I decided to do what I had to do,”‘ O’Mara said.  “So in that sense, yes, I think he wanted to tell his story.”

O’Mara said Zimmerman is still “worried” because he could get life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

He said Zimmerman “believed he did what he had to do to protect himself from great bodily injury that was already being visited on him. If we presented evidence that helped the jury understand that, then we’ve done our job.”

About Nick Chiles

Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. He has written or co-written 12 books and won over a dozen major journalism awards during a journalism career that brought him to the Dallas Morning News, the Star-Ledger of New Jersey and New York Newsday, in addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Couleur travel magazine.

Comments

  1. Zimmerman used self defense, without doubt.
    Several mistakes led to Martin's death, but Zimmerman had no choice but to pull out his gun when he was overpowered by Martin in the fight. Zimmerman shouldn't have followed Martin as a neighborhood watcher, but this isn't enough to convict him. Human mistakes are not crime.

  2. I admire this judge. No more bullying by the defense. It's been such a lop-sided trial. It should have been manslaughter the whole time. I don't know why so many people think this is an open and shut case. We have to rely on the perceptions of this odd and frightened man. Why did Zimmerman continue (against 911 advice) to stalk this young person?

  3. Tempe Gee says:

    What about Martin's right to defend himself? He was being aggressively followed by this big dude with a 'tude. Anyone would have felt threatened in that situation. If everyone pulled out a gun just because they were being bested in some fisticuffs, then high schools would be littered with dead boys.

  4. Martin was defending his self, Zimmerman was following Martin, the kid was minding his oen business,Zimmerman murder the kid

  5. Highly Favored says:

    THE POLICE OPERATOR TOLD HIM TO LEAVE HIM ALONE N.HE STILL FOLLOWED THE BOY HE DESERVES LIFE IN PRISON..THE BOY WAS SCREAMING N HE KILLED THAT TEENAGER..HOW WOULD YALL FEEL IF THAT WAS.UR CHILD?AND THE BOY HAD SNACKS&A DRINK IN HIS HANDS.RIGHT IS RIGHT..WRONG IS WRONG..HE DESERVES LIFE IN PRISON END OF CASE..

  6. I KNEW they'd "adjust" things so they would get him with something to appease the rioters we are so scared of. That mentality run amok in America is what got Travin in the situation he was in and now we are showing everyone if you play the race card hard enough and riot hard enough you can go around the laws and suit agendas. Enforcing & enabling that delinquent behavior is the root cause of this whole mess and that is exactly what they are doing. Just the fact that he was illegal arrested by falsifying paperwork (See :Angela Corey)would normally mean instant acquittal. People get off charges because they don't get their right read, but in GZ's case, Being illegally arrested per falcifed documents spearheadded by sharpton, jackson and Angela Corey is ok. What?

  7. Highly Favored says:

    ITS NOT A HUMAN MISTAKE HE SHOULDNT APPROACHED THE CHILD..I BELIEVE FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART TRAYVON WAS DEFENDING HIMSELF AGAINST AN ARMED GROWN MAN..HOW WAS ZIPPPERMAN USING SELF DEFENSE WHEN HE APPROACHED THE CHILD WRONGLY?IF THE BOY WAS OVER POWERING ZIPPERMAN IT WAS BECAUSE HE WAS TRYINA DEFEND HIS LIFE AGAINST THIS GROWN MAN …..ZIPPERMAN GUILTY…

  8. Kimberly Perry says:

    @Eva McBride Human mistakes? Zimmerman didn't make a mistake, he knew exactly what he was doing: stalking a black dude. The only reason he had the courage to follow Martin that night was because he had a gun.

  9. Kurt Otto says:

    a combination of uncontrollable rage and pure cowardice

  10. Kurt Otto says:

    it certainly is enough to convict him. just watch.

  11. I lived near the place this unfortunet event happend, i'm sad to say its not uncommon for young people In the area surronding the complex that george zimmerman was patrolling to commit crimes, I understand zimmerman being on guard in his thinking & attitude but never should a neighborhood watch patrol person carry a gun. If he would not of had a weapon trayvon would still be with us & none of this court stuff would be happening.

  12. Kurt Otto lol

    White man patrolling neighborhood = "uncontrollable rage and cowardice"

    Black man SUCKERPUNCHING Whitey and then smashing his face into concrete = bravery ;)

  13. You keep telling yourself what you want to believe GIRRL, your white liberal plantation is more than happy to accommodate and encourage your black ethnocentric hate. As long as you keep voting for us.

  14. Tempe Gee oh, lol, "AGGRESSIVELY" followed, well that is different. You see normally when a paparazzi, lets say, FOLLOWS and pursues a celebrity, despite popular opinion, they still have legal rights not to be SUCKERPUNCHED and headsmashed into the sidewalk but if it's "AGGRESSIVELY" followed, well, then, that sounds very ominous ;)

    You white liberals really are just a SPECIAL kind of retard aren't you?

  15. Kurt Otto Im still watchin

  16. lol, defending himself with what the concrete pavement?

  17. Add me lil lady

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