Nightly News   |  July 11, 2013

Jury may consider lesser charge for Zimmerman

On Thursday the judge ruled the jury in the George Zimmerman trial may consider the lesser charge of manslaughter in lieu of second-degree murder, to which Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty. The prosecution made their closing arguments, and the defense will present its closing arguments on Friday. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.

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>>> good evening. the prosecution has now made its closing argument in the closely watched and highly charged trial of george zimmerman . he's been charged with second degree murder in the death of trayvon martin, but that charge became an ish nsue in court today. the jury now allowed to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter. the parents of the defendant and the dead teenager , all in court together for the first time since opening statements as final moments are getting close. the jury could have this case as soon as tomorrow. ron mott starts us off tonight from sanford, florida. good evening.

>> brian, good evening. a hush fell over the courtroom as the prosecutor began the closing rargmentes that wept on for more than two hours. at one point it looked as though he got a relate reaction from george zimmerman himself.

>> a teenager is dead. he is dead through no fault of his own. he is dead because another man made assumptions.

>> reporter: the state started its closing today in a less explosive fashion than it opened 17 days ago.

>> [ bleep ] punks. these [ bleep ]s, they always get away.

>> reporter: but made the same argument about trayvon martin's killing to the all-woman jury.

>> the man guilty of second degree murder.

>> reporter: that george zimmerman should go to prison for profiling, shooting, and killing trayvon martin.

>> why does he get out of the car if he thinks trayvon martin is a threat to him? why? why? he's got a gun. he's got the equalizer.

>> reporter: trayvon martin's and george zimmerman 's parents all in the courtroom --

>> [ bleep ] always get away.

>> he uttered it under his breath which indicates ill will and hatred.

>> reporter: and for the second straight day.

>> he is saying armpit -- how does he get the gun out?

>> reporter: the life size foam dummy thrown into the mix.

>> see where he's pointing to, where he's grabbing, where the firearm?

>> reporter: and the prosecutor questioning the struggle with george zimmerman .

>> this seemed to get more difficult every day of trial. the closing argument seemed effective, it may not be enough for the crime of murder.

>> reporter: sparks flew as both sides sparred over manslaughter and third degree felony murder .

>> doesn't the court realize this was a trick by the state.

>> reporter: the defense complained about getting notice of the third degree murder trial just this morning.

>> just when i thought the case couldn't get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third degree murder based on child abuse?

>> reporter: the judge denied the third degree murder charge, but manslaughter may be skred in lieu of second degree murder.

>> you are in agree with that?

>> yes.

>> reporter: zimmerman pleaded not guilty to second degree murder.

>> the state should be required to prove second degree murder if they can. and if they can't prove it, that's the failing of the prosecuting.

>> reporter: tomorrow morning , the defense will make its closing argument , followed by a state rebuttal, and unless something unforeseen, the jury expected to be charged by the afternoon.

>> ron mott covering throughout, starting us off tonight, ron , thanks.

>>> let's bring in nbc news legal analyst, lisa bloom who has handled some high-profile cases herself. these are called lessers, lesser charges. does the introduction of manslaughter mean that the prosecution has less than full confidence in the case?

>> the side willing to take an all or nothing approach is more confident. that's the defense. the prosecution will be happy with a compromised verdict of manslaughter if they get manslaughter or second degree murder, they will consider that a win.

>> reporter: lisa bloom , we'll keep in close touch with this. the end of the case rapidly approaching.