Jurors weighing the fate of George Zimmerman, who is on trial for second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, will now be able to consider lesser charges of manslaughter against the community watchman after a Florida judge signed off on the request from state prosecutors.
Florida Circuit Judge Debra Nelson instructed jurors Thursday that they may consider finding Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter if they don’t believe prosecutors made their case that the Martin killing was murder. Of course, they can also decide to acquit Zimmerman if they believe he acted in self-defense and did not commit any crime.
Jose Baez, the attorney who successfully defended the notorious accused child-killer Casey Anthony in nearby Orlando, told USA Today that the prosecution’s request to add manslaughter charges against Zimmerman may be an indication that the state doesn’t believe they’ve made their case for murder.
"They aren't going to go all or nothing," Baez said. "They aren't blind to the fact that they haven't proven second-degree murder."
Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting death of Martin, 17. He claims he was acting in self-defense when he shot the teenager during a struggle. Zimmerman, a volunteer community watchman, believed the unarmed black teen was acting suspiciously in his Sanford, Fla., neighborhood when he decided to pursue him. He called 911 and even though dispatchers told him to let police handle the matter, he followed him. An altercation then ensued that led to Martin’s death.
Closing arguments in the Zimmerman trial were expected to begin Thursday. The case schould go to the six-woman jury on Friday.