Mike Schneider and Kyle Hightower, AP, July 11, 2013
A Florida judge has denied a prosecution request to include third-degree murder as a lesser charge in George Zimmerman’s second-degree murder charge.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled Wednesday, saying it was best to exercise caution.
Defense attorney Don West had objected strongly to the third-degree murder proposal since it is premised on the idea Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The judge earlier ruled manslaughter can be considered as a lesser charge.
Zimmerman is pleading not guilty.
Prosecutor Richard Mantei argued that instructions for third-degree murder should be included on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin because Martin was underage.
But defense attorney Don West called the proposed instruction “a trick,” and he accused the prosecutor of springing it on the defense at the last minute.
“Just when I didn’t think this case could get any more bizarre, the state is alleging child abuse?” West said. “This is outrageous. It’s outrageous the state would seek to do this at this time.”
West said he wanted the six jurors to only consider the second-degree murder charge or not guilty.
“The state has charged him with second degree murder. They should be required to prove it,” West said. “If they had wanted to charge him with manslaughter … they could do that.”
Jurors could begin deliberating as early as Friday. Prosecutors were expected to give closing arguments Thursday afternoon, followed by the defense closing on Friday morning.