Jurors in the George Zimmerman trial raised a question to gain clarification on the offense of mansalughter Saturday (July 13). The collective has been deliberaing for more than 12 hours, and will decide the fate of the Florida resident in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin last February.
According to CNN legal expert Sunny Hostin, asking questions points to jurors going through the charges against Zimmerman in chronological order, and may have ruled out second-degree murder. The inquiry into manslaughter was the only one brought up by the six women. The group has also ordered dinner which another expert said means “they’re closer to the end now because they want to keep working.”
The panel of six women, which has deliberated more than 12 hours over two days, could decide on manslaughter, second-degree murder or acquittal for Zimmerman, who says he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.
“My guess is that they are looking hard at it to settle on manslaughter, that’s what that usually means,” said Teresa Sopp, a Jacksonville-based defense attorney.
Zimmerman, 29, said Martin attacked him on the night of February 26, 2012, in the central Florida town of Sanford. Prosecutors contend the neighborhood watch coordinator in his gated community was a “wannabe cop” who tracked down the teenager and shot him without justification.
Judge Debra Nelson responded to the note by asking the jury to pose a more specific question about manslaughter.
To convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder, which carries the possibility of a life prison sentence, the jury must find Zimmerman acted with ill will, spite or hatred.
In the case of manslaughter, according to the instructions read by the judge, jurors must find that Zimmerman committed an act “that was not merely negligent, justified or excusable and which caused death.” The crime carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Closing arguments commenced Friday (July 12) afternoon with a final rebuttal from the prosecution. During his statements, lead defense attorney Mike O’Mara urged jurors to side with Zimmerman if there is “a reasonable doubt” concerning whether of not the 29-year-old “was justified in the use of deadly force.”
If so, O’Mara wants jurors to come to one conclusion, “He’s not guilty.”
He added that the death of Martin, 17, was “a tragedy, truly, but you can’t allow sympathy into it.”