Judge Rules That Jury Can Consider Manslaughter Charge in George Zimmerman Trial

Judge Rules That Jury Can Consider Manslaughter Charge in George Zimmerman Trial

With closing arguments beginning in George Zimmerman's murder trial today, jurors will have an additional charge to consider when they deliberate. 

This morning, Judge Debra Nelson said that she would allow the jury to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, which would carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison for Zimmerman. The prosecution also pushed for the jury to consider a charge of third-degree murder, a move that illicited immediate opposition from the defense. 

"Just when I thought this case could not get any more bizarre the state is seeking third degree on child abuse," said defense attorney Don West"This was a trick," he added. But his repeated use of the word "trick," drew the ire of Nelson, who checked him immediately. "I don't want to hear the word trick anymore," she warned.

Nelson rejected the consideration of a third-degree murder charge. It would've asked the jury to weigh the possibility that Zimmerman committed child abuse because Martin was just 17-years-old when he was killed. The prosecution decided that they will not pursue another lesser charge of aggravated assault.

Zimmerman's lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara says he fears that even if his client is acquitted, he'll spend the rest of his life in hiding, dodging public scrutiny. "He's very worried about his safety, personal safety going forward," O'Mara said. "Because those same people who portended the fear and hatred leading up to this trial probably are not going to accept an acquittal."

Zimmerman's fate could be placed in the jury's hands as early as tomorrow afternoon.

[via ABC News and CBS News]

RELATED: The Complete Timeline of the Trayvon Martin Case

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