Zimmerman trial: Jury allowed to consider manslaughter

Zimmerman trial: Jury allowed to consider manslaughter

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

Chief Judge Debra Nelson on Thursday ruled that jurors in the George Zimmerman trial won't be able to consider a charge of third-degree murder, what the defense in earlier arguments called "outrageous" and "a trick."  However, a charge of manslaughter will be allowed in for consideration by the jury.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei lobbied for the third-degree murder charge on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Listen to 911 calls, see more evidence pictures at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

"Just when I didn't think this case could get any more bizarre, the state is alleging child abuse?" West said. "This is outrageous. It's outrageous the state would seek to do this at this time."

West said he wanted the six female jurors only to consider the second-degree murder charge or not guilty.

"The state has charged him with second-degree murder. They should be required to prove it," West said. "If they had wanted to charge him with manslaughter... they could do that."

In her ruling Judge Nelson said, "I went back and looked at all this and I don't think the evidence supports the charge of third-degree felony murder."

The neighborhood watch volunteer fatally shot Martin in February 2012 in Zimmerman's gated Sanford community.

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As closing arguments began, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda painted Zimmerman as an angry vigilante who "tracked" Martin through a gated community and provoked the confrontation that claimed the teenager's life in a scorching summation Thursday.

"A teenager is dead," said prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda in his closing argument. "He's dead not just because the man made those assumptions, but because he acted on those assumptions and unfortunately, because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on this Earth."

De la Rionda told the jury that Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer and that's why he followed Martin through his neighborhood even though the teen wasn't doing anything wrong.

"He assumed Trayvon Martin was a criminal. That is why we are here," de la Rionda said.

Zimmerman showed ill will and hatred when he whispered profanities to a police dispatcher over his cell phone while following Martin, said de la Rionda as he urged jurors to hold Zimmerman accountable for his actions. In order to get a second-degree conviction, prosecutors must show Zimmerman showed ill will, hatred or spite.

"The law doesn't allow people to take the law into their own hands," de la Rionda said.

De la Rionda dismissed defense claims that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, accusing the neighborhood watch volunteer of lying about what happened.

"He brought a gun to a fight that he started.  Now, he wants you to let him off, because he killed the only eyewitness."

The prosecutor also showed jurors a head shot photo of Martin taken from his autopsy. Jurors trained their eyes on de la Rionda, barely taking notes.

"The truth does not lie," De la Rionda said. 

Complete coverage of the George Zimmerman trial at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

Zimmerman's parents were allowed back into the courtroom after having to stay outside, because they were witnesses in the case.  Robert Zimmerman Sr. looked annoyed during the presentation.

De la Rionda demonstrated with the same mannequin brought out during Wednesday's court session, saying it was too dark for Trayvon Martin to see the gun.

De la Rionda asked, "If Martin straddled Zimmerman by the armpits, how could he notice the weapon?" 

De la Rionda also said that witness Rachel Jeantel should not be any less credible, because of the way she looks and sounds. "Her use of colorful language doesn't mean her testimony is less credible. "

Prosecutors also used a clip from an interview with George Zimmerman conducted by Fox News host Sean Hannity, saying Zimmerman changed his story. 

Zimmerman's lead attorney, Mark O'Mara, told reporters Wednesday after resting his case that the jury's only option should be the second-degree murder charge brought by prosecutors. If jurors are unable to convict Zimmerman of murder, then he should be acquitted, O'Mara said, because the shooting on Feb. 26, 2012 was intentional.

"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," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman never testified. But jurors saw repeated video recordings of Zimmerman telling his side of the story to investigators. He claims that he shot Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense while the teen straddled and punched him.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara told reporters that Zimmerman wanted to testify but his attorneys felt he had already told his version of events in multiple police interviews played for jurors.

"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."

Still, O'Mara said his client is "worried" because he faces up to a life sentence in prison if convicted for what O'Mara called a classic case of self-defense.

Asserting that Zimmerman "believed he did what he had to do to protect himself from great bodily injury that was already being visited on him," O'Mara added, "If we presented evidence that helped the jury understand that, then we've done our job."

The six-member all-female jury is expected to get the case as early as Friday.

Closing arguments for the defense will begin when court resumes at 8:30 a.m. on Friday.  After that, prosecutors will have a chance for rebuttal.  The jury will then receive instructions for deliberations.

Zimmerman could face up to life in prison if convicted of second degree murder using a firearm. A manslaughter conviction in the case could result in a maximum sentence of 30 years.


Information from Fox 35's Valerie Boey, FoxNews.com and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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