The judge in the George Zimmerman murder trial was asked by the prosecution to consider instructing the jury to with lesser charges when they begin deliberations on Friday.
However, the prosecution wants the jury to also consider manslaughter and aggravated assault along with second-degree murder charge. If convicted of second-degree murder, Zimmerman could spend up to life in prison. If convicted of manslaughter, he could be imprisoned for up to 30 years. And if the jury convicts Zimmerman of aggravated assault, he could be confined for up to five years.
Zimmerman’s defense attorneys objected to the idea; Judge Debra Nelson will hold a hearing Thursday morning to decide whether jurors should consider the new charges.
The last-minute maneuvering has been seen by some legal experts as an indication that prosecutors are not as confident about their chances for a second-degree murder conviction. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, has been portrayed by prosecutors as a wanna-be cop who, allegedly shot and killed Trayvon Martin, who is black, after a confrontation in a gated residential community.
“They aren’t going to go all or nothing,” said Jose Baez, a Florida criminal defense attorney, of state prosecutors. “They aren’t blind to the fact that they haven’t proven second-degree murder.” Baez successfully defended Casey Anthony, a Florida mother accused of killing her daughter in a high-profile capital murder case.
Zimmerman says he acted in self-defense after Trayvon sucker punched him and began beating him. The jury is expected to start deliberating on Friday.
Prosecutors have maintained that Zimmerman profiled Trayvon and assumed an unarmed teen was a threat to his community. They called 38 witnesses to testify, including some who said Zimmerman was the aggressor and continuously played up that Zimmerman followed Trayvon.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said he will argue against the lesser charges being considered.
“Self-defense is self-defense,” O’Mara said. “What happened out there was not a crime, so in that context there shouldn’t have been” any charges.
Speculation that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, profiled, followed and allegedly murdered the black teen sparked racial controversy and protests across the nation last year. Zimmerman says that race did not factor into his actions.