PoliticsNation   |  July 11, 2013

Jury to consider manslaughter charge

Legal experts Lisa Bloom, Faith Jenkins, Ken Padowitz, John Burris, and Marcia Clark join PoliticsNation to discuss how the introduction of the lesser charge of manslaughter could impact the outcome in the George Zimmerman trial. 

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> to quote the defendant, and pardon my language, he was one of those [ bleep ] that get away. pardon my language. he was one of those [ bleep ].

>> quoting george zimmerman 's own words, the prosecution today said those words helped prove that he is guilty of second-degree murder. but now the jury will also be allowed to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, and that could prove crucial to the verdict that they reach in this case. back with me is our legal panel. lisa, let me start with you, because you have to leave in a minute, and we'll see you later in the show. how important is second lesser charge for the jury to consider?

>> i think it's extremely important. many people have said this is a manslaughter case, not a murder case. i've always disagreed -- well, not always. but since the close of the prosecution case, i thought they put on a good case actually for second-degree murder. i just don't think they put it away today in closing argument . bottom line, i think you have to present the evidence for both you. present it in the alternative. you certainly hit hardest at the top charge. but they have the manslaughter charge. they're going to be instructed on it. you don't ignore that. you talk about that charge as well. i think either one, a conviction on either one would be a clear win for the prosecution.

>> marsha, here are the charges that the jury will consider. second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison , and manslaughter, which if done with a firearm, has a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. so if they convict on either one, it is significant punishment. clearly it doesn't return any kind of life to the family because they've lost their son and brother. but it clearly is punishment.

>> that's true. and it's significant. and, you know, the problem is that in every murder case, we cannot bring the victim back. i mean, ultimate justice would be the victim comes back. but we can't do that. so the only thing you can do is punish the defendant with a significant punishment as the conviction warrants. in this case, either conviction is going to wind up a very significant sentence for him. and i think that's appropriate.

>> ken, you know the prosecutor talked today about assumptions. he said that george zimmerman made that he shot trayvon martin a lot of assumptions. listen to this.

>> this defendant made the wrong assumption. he profiled him as a criminal. he assumed certain things that trayvon martin was up to no good, and that is what led to his death. what started this? assumptions. incorrect assumptions. on the part of one individual.

>> isn't that the theme of the prosecution? isn't that the theory of their case, that this accused mr. zimmerman started with assumptions, profiled martin , killed him, and lied about it? ken?

>> reverend, the reason that he does not get an a plus and gets a c-plus to a b-minus in my opinion, is assumption is a wimpy word. zimmerman didn't make assumption on that night. he made prejudgments. he prejudgments with this young man with a hoodie as being a criminal. he prejudged a whole bunch of things. he didn't make assumption. that's a very neutral word. i didn't like the use of that word. but yes, his theme overall was effective. it goes into the web of lies. that goes to the amounts of second-degree murder. but i agree, you know, with some of the commentators that this is not a very strong case for second-degree murder. it's a much stronger case for manslaughter. so i think when the jury is going to be hearing from the prosecution first, while they have all night to think about what the prosecutor says before the defense closing tomorrow, it would have been good to touch upon manslaughter and insert that in there in a certain way so the jury can start thinking about it without giving up the argument that it is in fact second-degree murder. so it's not an assumption. there were prejudgments by zimmerman , and they were not neutral assumptions.

>> john burris?

>> absolutely that's correct. i think the term here that no one is talking about, this was a racial profiling time of assumption and prejudgment.

>> yes.

>> because you think he did it with respect to all the other cases that came in, they were all african-american, young men. here is another one he saw and he made certain assumption about it, made prejudgments about him. and there there his whole attitude and conduct based on that. that goes to the mental state that goes to second-degree murder. i don't know if it gets you all the way there. but he certainly had the a predisposition at the time to prejudge this young man and because he was an african-american male walking in the neighborhood, wearing a hoodie, believed he was acting in a suspicious way, even though he wasn't. that part is important. i think that at the end of the day , though, the prosecution has to deal with this whole question, though, of what happened during the course of that fight. now, what they have done is tried to build this case around circumstantial evidence which is the lies that were told, and therefore you have a circumstance you can infer by lying that he must have had a mental state that is consistent with the attitude he had at the very beginning. that's a tough way to make it. but that's the road that they have gone down.

>> but faith, we're dealing in florida. five members of the jury are white. if he had brought up race without having specific evidence of race, could that have backfired?

>> absolutely.

>> did he say by saying profiling and preassumptions, didn't he put where the jury may be able to see that without raising race and then the defense saying no one came in here and said there was a race problem?

>> the prosecutor is using the word profiling. these jurors know exactly what he is referring to. they know that the prosecutor is not saying that zimmerman profiled trayvon because he didn't like the kind of candy he was carrying. they know that the prosecutors arguing they profiled him because of the way he look and how he was dressed. they understand that. they also know that these prior calls are coming in, and that his mind-set started developing not on the night that he saw trayvon martin , but months prior to that, leading up to this incident and the night that he saw trayvon martin when he said they're not going to get away. he meant it, because then he followed him and confronted him.

>> marcia, the prosecutor called george zimmerman a wanna-be cop. listen to this.

>> recall how he says that at one point that trayvon martin is circling his car? and my point in saying that is number one, you have to determine whether that is true. but let's presume that part is true. and he says he's got something in his hands. why does this defendant get out of the car if he thinks that trayvon martin is a threat to him? why? why? because he's got a gun. he's got the equalizer. he's going to take care of it. he is a wanna-be cop.

>> is that effective, marcia?

>> oh, i thought it was very effective. and i've been saying this all along, reverend. you know, he started this, knowing he had the lethal power in his pocket. he got out of that truck, knowing that he had a gun. and, you know, that makes a whole different mind-set. now, what that should do, and a responsible gunowner will tell you, what that should do is make him feel even more restrained, even more careful, because he knows he has lethal power in his pocket, and you don't use that unjudiciously. but that's the problem with someone like george zimmerman , who gets out of his truck with his big head of steam, which is what the prosecutor is talking about, about all the other cases where the prosecutors messed up and didn't do anything about it and the punks got away. he gets out and is all puffed up with his gun. he is going to run trayvon martin down. he is not scared. if he was scared and he was worried and frightening, then why did he get out at all? he knew the name of the street. i think the prosecutor showed that beautifully, by showing how he popped the name of the street right out during his conversation with the police. and one other thing, reverend, i just want to say one thing about having to disprove -- the prosecution has to disprove self-defense. when you get into, why are they talking so much about the defense theory of the case, they are required to disprove, disprove self-defense, not just prove their case, but disprove self-defense.

>> i got to take a break. i'll come back to you, faith. stay with me there is much more from