The George Zimmerman trial jury has asked the judge to clarify the manslaughter charge.
By agreement with attorneys from both sides made in open court, Judge Debra Nelson a few minutes ago responded to the jury in writing that she is willing to answer specific questions that they may have. Apparently under Florida case law, engaging in general discussions about the manslaughter charge would be inappropriate.
The question may suggest that the all-female jury has perhaps already rejected the second-degree murder count and is currently undecided between manslaughter (as what’s being called by some trial observers a compromise verdict) and rendering a not-guilty verdict on all charges.
According to USA Today,“A manslaughter verdict would mean jurors rejected Zimmerman’s claim he killed in self defense and ‘intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death’ of Trayvon [Martin], according to Florida’s definition of the charge.” A guilty verdict on manslaughter would likely carry a very long jail sentence in the range of 30 years, however, an aspect of the penalty over which the jury is unaware.
APreports that “To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification. To win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must convince jurors Zimmerman acted with ill will, hatred or spite toward Martin.”
George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, is on trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on February 26, 2012, after confronting the teenager as he walked back to the house where he was staying in a gated community outside of Orlando, Florida. Zimmerman entered a plea of not guilty on self-defense grounds.
Both in his closing argument on Friday and in discussing the case with the media, defense attorney Mark O’Mara strongly push backed against a compromise manslaughter guilty verdict or even what he called a jury “pardon” on the basis of sympathy. Self-defense is a defense to murder or manslaughter, he has insisted.
The courtroom verdict watch is being streamed live online as the court awaits the jury’s decision: