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November 27, 2014

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Jurors in Zimmerman trial have question about manslaughter

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Associated Press

Patrick Woodburn, left, and William Memola hold signs supporting George Zimmerman in front of the Seminole County Courthouse on Saturday, July 13, 2013, in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Updated Saturday, July 13, 2013 | 3:42 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. — After deliberating for almost eight hours Saturday, jurors deciding whether George Zimmerman committed a crime when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin stopped their work to ask the judge a question about manslaughter.

"May we please have clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter," Judge Debra Nelson read from the jurors' note before a courtroom that had rapidly filled up with lawyers, reporters and members of the families of Martin and Zimmerman.

As jurors awaited an answer, the judge talked to lawyers at her bench and then said court would recess for a half hour.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder but jurors also have the options of finding him guilty of manslaughter or not guilty. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.

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.

Zimmerman faces a maximum prison sentence of life for second-degree murder and 30 years if convicted of manslaughter, due to extra sentencing guidelines for committing a crime with a gun.

The jury of six women started deliberating Friday afternoon. At the time they asked their question about manslaughter Saturday, they had been deliberating for a total of 11 ½ hours over two days. On Friday, they made their first question: a request for a list of all the evidence.

.Jurors wee being sequestered, and their identities are kept anonymous — they are identified only by number.

As jurors deliberated for a second day, there was little understanding between two camps assembled to support Martin and Zimmerman outside the Seminole County Courthouse.

"He deserves some respect and appreciation," Casey David Kole Sr., 66, shouted about the former neighborhood watch leader. "It's a tragedy."

Patricia Dalton, 60, yelled back: "It's a tragedy that could have been avoided!"

Dalton, like most of the 100 or so people at the suburban Orlando courthouse, says she's there in support of the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen from Miami who Zimmerman fatally shot last year.

The supporters stayed peaceful for most of the day until in the afternoon when sheriff's deputies had to separate a Zimmerman supporter from a pro-Martin demonstrator after a heated exchange. There was no physical contact made and no one was arrested.

The atmosphere quickly cooled down. Two Orlando sisters, dressed in colorful African-print clothing and walking on stilts, sang "Lean on Me" with the crowd as a man strummed a banjo and people waved signs.

"We're just here for peace and love," said stilt walker Bambi Loketo.

Prosecutors and Trayvon Martin's family say Zimmerman profiled Martin because of the teen's race. Those allegations, and a 44-day delay before police arrested Zimmerman, sparked nationwide protests involving leading national civil rights leaders and spurred emotional debates about gun control, self-defense laws, race, and equal justice under the law.

In Saturday's strong Florida sun, some people at the courthouse wore hoodies, as Martin had when he died. One woman lay in the grass, her arms spread, in a re-creation of Martin's death. Those in the smaller pro-Zimmerman camp held small signs, saying things like "We love you George" and "George got hit you must acquit."

Joseph Uy of Longwood was among an even smaller group: the few who said they had no opinion on whether Zimmerman was guilty. He said he came because he was "just curious."

"I'm neutral," he said, while cradling his three tiny Chihuahuas in his arms.

By mid-afternoon, people rallied in the heat and chanted slogans as a looming thundercloud threatened a downpour.

"Justice for Trayvon," some shouted. Others yelled, "Convict George Zimmerman."

Police and civic leaders have pleaded for calm in Sanford and across the country after the verdict.

"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."

In New York on Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that no matter the verdict, any demonstrations that follow it must be peaceful.

"We do not want to smear Trayvon Martin's name with violence," the civil rights leader said. "He is a victim of violence."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson had a similar message. He tweeted that people should "avoid violence because it only leads to more tragedies."

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, said the parents are emotional but doing as well as expected as they await a verdict.

"(Jurors) staying out longer and considering the evidence and testimony is a good thing for us arriving at a just verdict," Crump said.

On Saturday morning, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared on Twitter what she called her favorite Bible verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Associated Press writers Kyle Hightower and Tony Winton in Sanford; and Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.

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  1. What a crock of apcray! "Stand our ground! Not one more black life!" What a bunch of BS! Why aren't those schwartzes in Chicago where the real action is? Over the July 4 weekend, a dozen blacks killed by other blacks, some 40 wounded, and these morons are protesting in Sanford, FL? If it were the other way around and Trayvon had killed George, think it would have been on cable news for nauseating day after nauseating day, with dopey "talking heads" pondering & pontificating about every asinine aspect, thereby blocking out really important happenings throughout the world? You bet your sweet bippy - it would have not! This was pure and simple "political" correctness running wild.

  2. Poor Jerry...

    Just...poor, poor Mr. Fink.
    The world past him by a half-century ago.

    Racism, egocentrism, willful ignorance & outright stupidity taint nearly every single comment on every single comment section or message board or blog on the internets & googles pertaining to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

    If you disregard every single other 'fact/supposition' out there...

    GZ followed TM when he should not have, was told not to.
    GZ shot and killed TM.
    Those 2 facts are incontrovertible.
    I think the jury will convict GZ of Manslaughter.
    But, I won't be surprised if he's acquitted, either.

  3. I like the way the liberals like gmag quote downright lies as facts to justify their agenda. Yes so quick to judge, gmag is the type of person who carried the rope, years back. I suspect if he was in Salem he would be first to light the torch.
    He is either a pathological liar or never watched the trial, and is just a baiter of the worse kind.
    First of his so called facts, NO ONE ever told Zimmerman let alone order him to not follow Martin. I challange him to provide this piece of evidence for debate. But why bother, because its not true.