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George Zimmerman Trial Verdict: What Are the Possibilities?

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Update 1:04 PM - The judge has decided to remove third-degree felony murder from the jury instructions because she does not believe there is enough evidence in support of it.

Now that both the prosecution and the defense have rested their case, the jury for the George Zimmerman trial is set to go into deliberations as soon as both sides finish their closing arguments. If the proceedings go smoothly, the six members of the jury could start their breakdown of the case as soon as Friday afternoon.

With the verdict looming ever-closer, let's take a look at the different ways that the jury could rule:

1. The Jury Finds George Zimmerman Guilty of Second-Degree Murder

The state of Florida has charged Zimmerman of murder in the second degree, a felony punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. In order to find Zimmerman guilty of this charge, the members of the jury would have to find that Zimmerman's actions demonstrated "a depraved mind without regard for human life."

2. The Jury Finds George Zimmerman Guilty of Manslaughter

In order to find Zimmerman guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the jury would have to believe that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin was "neither excusable, nor justified." Under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code, manslaughter is a second-degree felony. However, manslaughter with a firearm is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It carries a minimum sentence of 9 and a quarter years.

3. The Jury Finds George Zimmerman Guilty of Third-Degree Felony Murder

Attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial are currently arguing before the judge about whether or not the jury should consider the lesser charge of third-degree murder in its deliberations. The prosecution has argued that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin because Martin was 17 at the time. Under Florida law, Zimmerman's actions could constitute a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

4. The Jury Finds George Zimmerman Not Guilty

The jury could decide that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense and in accordance with Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law when he shot Trayvon Martin. It would have to believe that Zimmerman's actions were "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

The jury would have to believe that the prosecution failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Zimmerman was guilty of second-degree murder. It would also have to decide not to find him guilty of any lesser crimes.

In that case, George Zimmerman would walk free, though the consequences of that scenario could be just as severe as any prison sentence.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

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George Zimmerman Trial: What is Third-Degree Felony Murder?

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Update 1:04 PM - The judge has decided to take third-degree felony murder off of the jury instructions because she does not believe there is enough evidence in support of it.

Attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial are currently arguing before the judge about whether or not the jury should consider the lesser charge of third-degree murder in its deliberations.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei argued that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin because Martin was 17 at the time. Under Florida law, Zimmerman's actions could constitute a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Judge Debra Nelson is expected to make a ruling on whether or not her instructions to the jury will include the possibility of this alternate charge when the court reconvenes at 1 PM on Thursday.

The defense called the prosecution's proposal "outrageous" and accused the prosecution of springing the charge at the last minute as "a trick."

"Just when I thought this case couldn't get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third degree murder charges based on child abuse?" defense attorney Don West said. He later added, "It's just hard for me to imagine that the court could take this seriously."

The state originally accused Zimmerman of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

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What is Manslaughter? George Zimmerman Would Face Up to 30 Years

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Prosecutors have asked the judge for the George Zimmerman trial to consider lesser charges. The state originally accused Zimmerman of second-degree murder.

However, on Thursday, Judge Debra Nelson agreed to instruct jurors to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter. Jury deliberations are expected to begin after the weekend, although they could start as early as Friday afternoon.

In order to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder under Florida law, the jury would have to find that Zimmerman's actions demonstrated "a depraved mind without regard for human life." Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Meanwhile, in order to find Zimmerman guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the jury would have to believe that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin was "neither excusable, nor justified."

Zimmerman has claimed protection under Florida's self-defense laws, which require him to show that his shooting of Martin was "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

Under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code, manslaughter with a firearm is a first degree felony punishable with up to 30 years in prison. It carries a minimum sentence of 9 and a quarter years in prison.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

George Zimmerman Trial: The Defense Rests

Picture Credit: Orlando Sentinel

Defense attorneys in the trial of George Zimmerman, the man accused of shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a Florida community, rested their case on Wednesday evening.

Zimmerman told Judge Debra Nelson that he did not want to testify on his own behalf during Wednesday's proceedings. That makes sense; it's common for defendants in criminal cases to forego taking the stand in order to avoid giving testimony that could later come back to bite them.

The defense's case began late on Friday afternoon and took less than half the time that the prosecution's case did. The fact that Zimmerman's defense seems abbreviated, especially compared to the prosecution's lengthy 38-witness case, is consistent with the general opinion in the legal community that Zimmerman will get off. 

READ: "It's Only Halftime, But the George Zimmerman Trial is Already Over"

Closing arguments could begin as soon as Thursday, after which point the jury will go into deliberations. If convicted, Zimmerman faces up to life in prison.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

 

George Zimmerman Prosecutor Straddles a Life-Size Dummy

On Wednesday, Florida prosecutor John Guy brought a whole new meaning to the term "ground and pound."

While cross-examining an expert witness for the defense, Guy whipped out a life-size mannequin and straddled it on the courtroom floor. 

Guy was attempting to re-enact for the expert witness the mixed martial arts (MMA) position which has become a recurring source of embarrasment for attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial.

Ever since John Good, a resident of the Florida community where Trayvon Martin was fatally shot and an eyewitness, used the term "ground and pound" in the first week of the trial, attorneys on both sides of the case wasted no time engaging in comically demeaning role-play.

But Guy wasn't the only attorney who decided to get down and dirty on the courtroom floor. As soon as Guy finished his cross, defense attorney Mark O'Mara decided to hop on and get some.

What's more, this isn't the first time that O'Mara has "banged the gavel," so to speak, during the Zimmerman trial. On Monday, the defense called Adam Pollack, an MMA trainer who had worked with Zimmerman at a Longwood, Florida gym. At one point during the testimony, Pollack came down from the stand and demonstrated what he called a "mounting position" on an enthusiastic Mark O'Mara.

This latest bout of "ground-and-pound"-ing isn't doing anything to restore my faith in the professionalism of the Zimmerman trial attorneys after the past few weeks of proceedings degenerated into a circus sideshow, complete with joke-telling, salty language, and even Chik-Fil-A ice cream cones.

READ: 7 Cringe-Inducing Moments From the George Zimmerman Trial

One has to wonder whether all of this feigned fornication is really necessary; I'm pretty sure the jury got the idea after prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda had his way with a witness' water bottle.

While the defense is busy prepping their motion-capture computer simulated 3D Digital Dolby Surround Sound IMAX animation of the fight between Zimmerman and Martin, the prosecution is stuck making awkward gestures with two appendage-less water bottles.

I knew the Florida D.A.'s office was underfunded, but come on... Really? I blame Rick Scott.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and sarcastic opinions on the increasingly ridiculous proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

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Zimmerman Trial Animation: Jury Can See It

Picture Credit: Joe Burbank

On Wednesday morning, Judge Debra Nelson ruled that the defense can show the jury for the George Zimmerman a computer animation of the events that proceeded the shooting on the night of February 26, 2012.

The ruling comes with some caveats, however. Judge Nelson rejected the defense's bid to use the simulation as actual evidence; instead, it will be shown to the jury as a demonstration during closing arguments.

She also ruled that the defense cannot show the jury the contents of Trayvon Martin's cellphone, which included photos linking the teen to marijuana use, a picture of a handgun, and text messages that discussed Martin's involvement in organized fighting at his school.

Judge Nelson heard arguments concerning the animation and the cellphone over the course of a six-hour hearing on Tuesday evening. According to USA Today, the animation shows Martin walking up to Zimmerman, punching him, and straddling him on the ground.

The prosecution objected to the use of the animation in court on the grounds that it failed to “represent a complete or accurate record of the evidence.” It noted that the lighting in the simulation was inaccurate. Prosecutor Rich Mantei also alleged that the video deliberately left out the murder weapon and relied heavily on Zimmerman's account of events.

Attorneys for Zimmerman have expressed that they believe the video will help the jury to picture the events that led up to the shooting. There's no question that the animation will force the jury to visualize the scene, but the six members of the jury will still have to decide whether they believe the defense's story.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

Zimmerman Trial Computer Animation: Will the Jury See It?

On Tuesday evening, outside the presence of the jury, attorneys for the prosecution and the defense debated about the admissibility of a computer animation that the defense wants to show in court.

The animation, which depicts the events that led up to the shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, is based on witness accounts, coroner reports, police reports, and photographs of the crime scene. It was created by crime scene animator Daniel Schumaker, who used a motion-capture system to produce the animation.

State prosecutor Rich Mantei has filed a motion to keep the video out of evidence. He alleges that the video fails to “represent a complete or accurate record of the evidence.” He notes that the lighting of the video is inaccurate, and says the animation deliberately leaves out the murder weapon. Mantei also claims that the video relies heavily on Zimmerman’s version of events.

While the defense says the video will help jurors to visualize the sequence of events that proceeded the shooting, the prosecution says that the animation will only serve to confuse.

The following is a different animation of the shooting that was produced in March 2012. It was produced in just a month, but the quality is surprisingly decent.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

 

Zimmerman Trial Verdict Imminent: Defense Expects to Rest Wednesday

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On Tuesday afternoon, defense attorney Mark O'Mara announced to Judge Debra Nelson that George Zimmerman's defense is "probably going to rest tomorrow" and that it is calling its last witness.

Compared to the prosecution's case, which involved 38 witnesses over the course of nine days in court, the defense has breezed through proceedings. Defense attorneys Mark O'Mara and Don West took over after the state rested its case late on Friday.

This abbreviated defense is probably a signal that Zimmerman's attorneys are optimistic about their client's chances of escaping conviction for second degree murder. As I argued in my article on Saturday, "It's Only Halftime, But the George Zimmerman Trial is Already Over," the prosecution failed in its case to prove Zimmerman's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defense is currently conducting a direct examination of Eloise Dilligard via webcam. Dilligard is a resident of the Twin Lakes gated community where Zimmerman fatally shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

If the defense rests its case on Wednesday as anticipated, the jury will go into deliberations this week. Provided the proceedings continue at their current pace, that means we could see a verdict as soon as early next week.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

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Trayvon Martin Drugs: Jury Will Hear About Martin's Marijuana Use

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The six-member jury of the George Zimmerman trial will see evidence of Trayvon Martin's marijuana use any day now, and as early as Tuesday.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled on Monday that the defense can show information in a toxicology report of Martin can be shown to the jury. The evidence is expected to show that Martin had small amounts of THC, a chemical found in marijuana, in his system when he died.

The introduction of this fact into evidence could prove key to the defense's case. As he watched Martin from his car, Zimmerman observed to a 911 operator that the teen's behavior was strange, and stated that he thought Martin might be "on drugs or something."

Dr. Shiping Bao, the medical examiner who conducted Martin's autopsy, testified on Monday that the THC in Martin's system could have had a physical or mental effect on Martin. He said that he had changed his opinion since last November, when he stated that the THC had no effect.

Judge Nelson had previously ruled that evidence of Martin's drug use was not admissible in court. Prosecutors argued the amount of THC in Martin's system was so minimal that it was uncertain what effect it had on Martin. They also accused the defense of trying to "backdoor some very negative character evidence" into the trial.

In May, attorneys revealed pictures found on Martin's cell phone which featured smoke escaping from Martin's mouth. Other images showed a small marijuana plant and a handgun.

In addition, text messages from Martin's phono contained multiple references to marijuana. "I got weed nd I get money Friday," a message sent from his phone reads. "I hid m weed," said another. "its wrapped."

Some, including Martin familiy attorney Benjamin Crump, see Martin's drug use as irrelevant to the case and label it an attempt by the defense to play into racist stereotypes. 

"Is the defense trying to prove Trayvon deserved to be killed by George Zimmerman because (of) the way he looked?" Crump said in a statement. If so, this stereotypical and closed-minded thinking is the same mindset that caused George Zimmerman to get out of his car and pursue Trayvon, an unarmed kid who he didn't know."

Regardless of its probative value, it's clear that this new evidence of Martin's drug use will only be damaging for Martin. "It's a negative notch against the victim," said a CNN analyst. "Any time the defense can do something like that, it's a score for the defense."

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter.

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George Zimmerman Trial 911 Call: Who's Screaming in the Background?

Picture Credit: Joe Burbank

The question of whose screaming can be heard in the background of a neighbor's 911 call on the night George Zimmerman fatally shot 17 year-old Trayvon Martin is quickly becoming a key point of contention in the case.

On Monday, the defense called five of Zimmerman's friends to testify that it was Zimmerman's voice on the call. "Yes, definitely. It's Georgie," said Sandra Osterman, the wife of Zimmerman's best friend, who also testified Monday. Her husband, Mark Osterman, has written a book, titled Defending Our Friend; The Most Hated Man in America.

The defense also called detectives Christopher Serino and Doris Singleton, who handled the Zimmerman shooting investigation. Both testified that Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, had told them that it was not Trayvon's voice on the 911 tape.

Serino described Tracy Martin's response: “He looked away and under his breath, as I interpreted it, said, ‘No.’”

“There is no doubt he was telling us that — that didn’t sound like his son to him,” Officer Doris Singleton told the court.

The defense then called Tracy Martin himself to the stand, who contradicted the testimony of the officers. "I didn’t tell him, ‘No, that wasn’t Trayvon,'" the father stated. “I never said that ‘No that wasn’t my son’s voice.’”

Describing his reaction to Serino's questioning about the tape, Martin said, “The chairs had wheels on them and I kind of pushed away from the table and just kind of shook my head and said, ‘I can’t tell.’"

Martin testified that he heard the tape again several weeks later in the office of the mayor of Sandford, Florida. He stated that he listened to the tape at least 20 times, after which point he became convinced that the screaming voice was his son's.

"I was listening to my son's last cry for help," Tracy Martin said. "I was listening to his life being taken."

Last week, Trayvon Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and brother, Jahvaris Fulton, both testified that they believed it was Martin's screaming on the tape. 

On cross examination, defense attorney Mark O'Mara noted that Jahvaris had previously stated to a reporter that he couldn't be certain whether the voice on the recording was his brother's. "I guess I didn't want to believe that it was him, that's why during that interview I said I wasn't sure," Fulton said. "Listening to it was clouded by shock and denial and sadness."

It's becoming increasingly apparent that there is no way for the jury to objectively determine the identity of the voice screaming for help on audio recording of the 911 call. An FBI voice analysis expert testified last week that the only uninterrupted portion of screaming on the recording lasts just three seconds. He stated that existing technology wasn't sufficient to scientifically identify the voice, but that a family member or someone who knew Martin personally might be able to.

Unfortunately, any such witness with a personal connection to either the victim or the defendant is likely to be subject to an inherent bias. For this reason, it may be impossible for the jury to decide who was really screaming for help in Sandford on the fateful night of February 26, 2012.

If you want to try to decipher the call yourself, you can listen to the full recording here. Be warned, as the audio is disturbing.

 
Who's really screaming in the background of the 911 call? Leave your answer in the comments.
 

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow Gabe on Twitter:

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Zimmerman Trial LIVE: Trayvon Martin Murder Case Live-stream

The trial of George Zimmerman is underway in Sanford, Florida, as the prosecution and defense are slated to make their opening statements. He has been charged with second degree murder in the February 26, 2012 shooting of 17 year-old Travyon Martin as the teenager walked through a gated community. Zimmerman, who was 28 at the time of the shooting, was sitting in his parked vehicle when he observed Martin, who he thought was acting suspicious and called police.

While on the phone with the dispatcher, Zimmerman left his vehicle and confronted Martin in altercation whose details are unclear to everyone at this point except Zimmerman. The confrontation ended up with Martin being fatally shot in the chest by Zimmerman's handgun. Later, police determined that there was no evidence that Martin had been involved in any criminal activity on the night of the shooting, and that he was carrying no weapons. 

Prosecutors are trying to show that Zimmerman profiled the black teenager and targeted him because of his race, while the defense will attempt to portray Martin as a threat to Zimmerman. 

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