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 Local Sports

WWU Soccer: women falls in OT, men get a tie

western washington logo generic copy/wwu

The WWU women's soccer team falls in OT to UBC in exhibition while the men tie Whitworth, 1-1, aslo in an exhibition game.

in Sports

Falcons announce 5-year contract extension for Julio Jones

Julio Jones #11 plays during an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, in Atlanta

The Atlanta Falcons have agreed to a five-year contract extension with Julio Jones that is expected to rank with recent deals paid to other top wide receivers.

in Sports

Little League World Series championship match-up is set

llws via ap twitter

Lewisberry, Pennsylvania will take on Tokyo, Japan in the Little League World Series championship game.

in Local Sports

Hauschka kicks 60-yard field goal to gives Seahawks win

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) looks to pass as Marshawn Lynch (24) blocks against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz.

Steven Hauschka kicked a 60-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to give the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night.

in Local Sports

Seager hits 2-run HR, Mariners hold on to beat White Sox 7-6

Kyle Seager hit a two-run home run during a three-run first inning and the Seattle Mariners withstood Chicago's late rally to beat the White Sox 7-6 Saturday night.