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August 22, 2014

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Prosecutor says Zimmerman’s profiling of Trayvon Martin led to teen’s death

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Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank / AP

George Zimmerman listens at his trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Fla., Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Updated Thursday, July 11, 2013 | 1:44 p.m.

George Zimmerman Trial

George Zimmerman, left, stands with defense counsel Mark O'Mara during closing arguments in his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Fla., July 12, 2013. Launch slideshow »

SANFORD, Fla. — In an unmistakable setback for George Zimmerman, the jury at the neighborhood watch captain's second-degree murder trial was given the option Thursday of convicting him on the lesser charge of manslaughter in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Judge Debra Nelson issued her ruling over the objections of Zimmerman's lawyers shortly before a prosecutor delivered a closing argument in which he portrayed the defendant as an aspiring police officer who assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands.

"A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jurors. "He is dead because a man made assumptions. ... Unfortunately because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks this Earth."

Because of the judge's ruling, the six jurors will have three options when they start deliberations as early as Friday: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter and not guilty.

Defense attorney Don West had argued for an all-or-nothing strategy, saying the jury's only options should be guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty altogether.

"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."

To win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove Zimmerman showed ill will, hatred or spite — a burden the defense has argued the state failed to meet. To get a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

Allowing the jurors to consider manslaughter could give those who aren't convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the death of the unarmed teen, said David Hill, an Orlando defense attorney with no connection to the case.

"From the jury's point of view, if they don't like the second-degree murder — and I can see why they don't like it — he doesn't want to give them any options to convict on lesser charges," Hill said of West.

Because of the way Florida law imposes longer sentences for crimes committed with a gun, manslaughter could end up carrying a penalty as heavy as the one for second-degree murder: life in prison.

It is standard for prosecutors in Florida murder cases to ask that the jury be allowed to consider lesser charges that were not actually brought against the defendant. And it is not unusual for judges to grant such requests.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei also asked that the jury be allowed to consider third-degree murder, on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he shot the underage Martin. Zimmerman's lawyer called that "bizarre" and "outrageous," and the judge sided with the defense.

Zimmerman, 29, got into a scuffle with Martin after spotting the teen while driving through his gated townhouse complex on a rainy night in February 2012. Zimmerman has claimed he fired in self-defense after Martin sucker-punched him and began slamming his head into the pavement. Prosecutors have disputed his account and have portrayed him as the aggressor.

During closing arguments, de la Rionda argued that Zimmerman showed ill will and hatred when he whispered profanities to a police dispatcher over his cellphone while following Martin through the neighborhood. He said Zimmerman "profiled" the teenager as a criminal.

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

The prosecutor told the jury that Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer and that's why he followed Martin. But "the law doesn't allow people to take the law into their own hands," de la Rionda said.

Zimmerman's lawyers are expected to deliver their closing arguments Friday morning.

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  1. Idiot judge. Idiot defense. They have to get Zimmerman convicted of SOMETHING. Did he jaywalk as he moved through the housing complex? Get him on that.

  2. notacon: "Cops told him to back off."

    Really? Transcripts of the calls and testimony from the trail is all online. Please show us a citation to back this bogus claim.

    Because from what I see, a telephone operator (not a cop) on a non-emergency line told Zimmerman "we don't need you to do that", not to "back off" or anything similar.

    So you misrepresent the facts, then declare "End of story". Was this some odd attempt to sabotage your own argument?

  3. Ok notacon. I asked a couple of the Metro officers who were on property today and they confirmed that "they don't NEED you to drive your car anywhere".

    So I'm assuming that by your "logic" you are accepting full culpability for anything that ever happens in the future while you are driving. If someone else runs into your car....it's your fault because the police said that they "don't need you to" be driving.

  4. Actually CreatedEQL, even the most recent article you linked to does *NOT* support your claim.

    It quotes NPR's Greg Allen as saying "He called the police, and then defense did concede this week that Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, although the question is how far did he follow him?"

    1. That's Greg Allen's opinion. Notice the lack of any direct quote of a defense attorney saying anything about it.

    2. It still says nothing about GZ following Martin AFTER the police told him they didn't need him to do that (which is what you claimed)

    Here's a link to HLN's live blog of the trial. Feel free to go back day by day and point out to us the spot where a defense attorney "conceded that GZ followed TZ" after being told he didn't need to do so.

    http://www.hlntv.com/article/2013/07/11/...

  5. The loss of life at any age is tragic, but the loss of a young person's life has far more reaching dimensions of lost opportunity. What TM could have become, his future accomplishments, his yet to be known relevance upon our world, all this and more are some thinks that will never be known of his being.

    Sorrow and condolences for the family and the loved one who TM touched in his short lived live. Rest assured it is only you who knew him close that can attest to his being and the choices he made in life; RIP.

    The Night Watchman- GZ, is just as is TM, given any scenario, because it doesn't end good, because after it is all said and done life has been lost.

    The over shadowing question is will justice truly be served, I needn't remind folks that justice is blind, and that matter-of-factness rather than a rush to judgment is needed here. The court system in the eye of history is being bruised, by abuse of power and disregard for state's rights once the Fed over stepped.

    I suppose, it can be said that if GZ is innocent then the trial will find that to be the case, no harm or foul. No, in the investigation GZ was found to be with the law in the first place and this now is tantamount to double jeopardy. This is a mockery of all that is believed to be fair in America, one of America's pillars-The Judicial Branch.

    I could not, I would not, want knowing full well of the injustice garnered me if I were to be given an unfair or even prejudicial award. Especially, as they say the unrest associated with our actions in the here and now.

    One condition that warrants mentioning is paranoia, the effect it has on folks and how some of the most malignant thought of circumstances are really of inconsequence.

  6. Profiling? You're darn right. All you politically correct folks... go wandering through life without profiling. You'll soon find that you made an error.

  7. profiling is nothing more than a summary of a person's characteristics. That in and of itself is not abhorrent behavior, it is when someone uses a person's outwardly surveillance appearance and concludes a prejudiced position like calling a person a "cr***er" when they are outside of the cr***er definition or to refer to someone as Irish because they are eating a potato. The purpose of profiling is to enhance the identification of a person's makeup, whereby narrowing the selection of choice or discounting others from a pool of latent predilection.

    What I ask is how are we to live hence this day forward, is crime prevention limited to locks or can we only wait till after the crime to prove guilt for fear of using a profile. I say batten down the hatches against crime, crime is not wanted here or anywhere in America, we need to be clear that under the law we will stand our ground, today and every day until it is ham-fistedly known as the law of the land.

  8. Defense Attorney Mark OMara: A beautiful MIND. And I will quote/paraphrase: we have 2 dots far apart, give me a line, throw me a line, connect the dots--with evidence.

  9. Ahhh, HELLO. BAU FBI used PROFILING as a TOOL to solve / prevent violent crime. Profiling is a GOOD THING. DISCRIMINATION is part of profiling. Agreed, ANYTHING can be misapplied but let's not refuse to use all the tools and intelligence available.

  10. Sympathy for the prosecutors: Obama and Holder (talk about RACISM) seem to have sent DOJ stormtroopers to Florida to force the arrest and demonstrations DESPITE the Chief of Police and investigators saying there was NO CASE ON Z. So you want to be the guy(s) who try to or actually convict an innocent man. And even with total acquittal, Z and family are forever in fear of retaliation.

  11. Rusty, please stop stalking me (joke). As a former LEO, I have some methods to those foolish burglars. Doesn't mean I can't see myself in Z's seat someday. Now, IF Z were a Metro Officer....would we have this waste of money, this unconscionable abuse of public funds and of citizens?

  12. I carried a weapon for years in a similar size and holster that Zimmerman used. If you are on your back on the ground you can not see the weapon or the holster. I say Zimmerman is lieing about Martin reaching for his weapon. I also heard Zimmerman say Martin jump out of the bushes and attacked him. In another version he then said he was looking off in another direction and then turned around to see Martin approach him. Zimmerman already had the mindset Martin was some sort of criminal when he said, "These a$$holes always get away." According to Zimmerman Martin's dieing words were "You got me." If that isn't from a movie script I don'y know what else is.

    What is the truth here?

    If "Stand Your Ground" means you can shoot someone in self defense, can it be defined as self defense if you beat the crap out of someone who was stalking you?

  13. The Judicial Watch said they have documents, why not publish the documents if it's true?

  14. Compliments to the Reverend Al SHARPTON on his turnabout from feeding the media hyperbole to reasonableness. Way to go.

  15. No, Vernos, no that would NOT be self defense. You can use whatever force is needed to STOP the attack. Further, STALKING is a lot more than following--there must be repeated occasions where the stalker SEEKS OUT the stalkee.

  16. TomD 8:26, I second that--screaming by the attorney is almost always INAPPROPRIATE. Ditto Jodi Arias attorney Nurmie's explosive demeanor. But isn't Mr. OMara a class act?