July 11, 2013 — -- George Zimmerman was tried for the charge of second degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin, but the judge today said the jury can consider an alternate, lesser charge of manslaughter.
Judge Debra Nelson rejected the prosecution's request to include other charges for the jury to consider that included aggravated assault and felony murder in which the underlying felony would be child abuse for shooting Martin, who was 17.
For the jury of six women to find Zimmerman guilty of second degree murder they must determine that he did something "imminently dangerous" and acted with a "depraved mind without regard to human life," according to Florida statutes. They have to find that Zimmerman acted with "ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent."
Catch up on all the details from the George Zimmerman murder trial.
If convicted of second degree murder, Zimmerman will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years without parole and a maximum of life in prison if the jury also makes a "special finding" that a gun was an "essential element" of the crime.
Without that special finding that he used a gun, Zimmerman could be sentenced to anywhere from 17 to 30 years in prison.
If he is found not guilty of second degree murder, then the jury can consider an alternative, lesser charge of manslaughter.
Manslaughter in Florida means killing someone through extreme negligence. Even if Zimmerman didn't intend to kill Martin, it means he acted "with utter disregard" to Martin's safety, his actions were "gross and flagrant," and he showed an "indifference to consequences."
The jury would also have to find that Zimmerman intended to do something that he knew or should have known could kill Martin.
A manslaughter conviction could bring up to a 30 year prison sentence assuming the jury makes a "special finding" that a gun was an "essential element" of the crime. If the jury does not make a "special finding," his sentence would likely be between 10 to 15 years.
If jurors believe that Zimmerman shot Martin in self-defense, then he should be acquitted under either charge. Self-defense means that Zimmerman believed that Martin would kill or gravely injure him, even if he was mistaken, and that belief was "reasonable" given the circumstances and what Zimmerman knew at the time.