crimes and misdemeanors

George Zimmerman Trial Jurors Want to Know More About Manslaughter Charge

The Seminole County Courthouse.

After eight hours of deliberation on Saturday, the six-woman jury in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year, sent a note to Judge Debra Nelson asking for “clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter.” After a meeting with lawyers for the defense and the prosecution, who both wanted the jury to elaborate on their confusion, the judge replied with a note saying that the court “can’t engage in a general discussion” of the charge and asked, “If you have a specific question, please submit it.” The jury reconvened and had not replied with another question as of Saturday evening. Observers were split on what the jurors’ request indicated about their thinking: It could mean that they’re deciding between a manslaughter conviction and a second-degree murder conviction, or it could mean they’re deciding between a manslaughter conviction and an acquittal. Or it could mean something else. After all, it was only on Thursday that Judge Nelson ruled that the jury could consider manslaughter in addition to the more serious second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman. “We’re reading tea leaves,” said Florida criminal defense attorney Mark NeJame, legal contributor for the Zimmerman trial-obsessed CNN. “We don’t really know.”

Meanwhile, outside the Seminole County Courthouse, around a hundred demonstrators both for and against (but mostly against, according to the AP) Zimmerman gathered throughout the day. Their displays were relatively calm, with the anti-Zimmerman faction occasionally chanting things such as “Justice for Trayvon” and “Convict George Zimmerman” and “Murder, not manslaughter.” Zimmerman supporters countered with calls of “We love you George” and “George got hit, you must acquit.”

Of course, a couple people did their best to stir the pot: At one point, the LA Times reports, a man walked up to a group of Martin supporters and said,  “George Zimmerman is an innocent man” — a statement that, unsurprisingly, was greeted with shouts of “Zimmerman’s a killer!” and “You’re a racist!” But there was no violence and, after things calmed down, the protesters peacefully — and unsuccessfully — tried to convince the man that he was wrong about Zimmerman. Earlier in the day, an awful person who identified himself to the Orlando Sentinel as Jack Scott shouted, “Go get your welfare checks” and “Go get your crack” at a crowd of Martin advocates, which resulted in “a verbal altercation between him and another man” that had to be broken up by the police. However, a Seminole County Sheriff’s office spokeswoman said both men were permitted to remain at the demonstration after they agreed “to be respectful of one another.” “There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence,” said an apparently hopeful Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger.

Zimmerman Trial Jurors Ask About Manslaughter