As expected, the Judge in the George Zimmerman case ruled that in addition to Second Degree Murder, she will instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of Manslaughter, as required by Florida case law.

In a surprise move this morning, the prosecution asked the Judge to drop the Aggravated Assault charge and to instruct the jury on Third Degree Murder, which is murder in the course of committing a felony.

The felony the State wanted as the predicate was Aggravated Child Abuse (Jury Instruction) because Trayvon Martin was 17 at the time of the shooting.

According to Don West, the defense was not notified until 7:30 a.m. this morning.

This surprise is important because the defense did not have time to research the law, while the State presented numerous cases.  Generally it is not a defense to child abuse that the perpetrator did not know the age of the victim.  This is an unusual circumstance, however, where Zimmerman was punched in the nose and the “child” was on top punching him — to say that excessive use of force in defense of an attack by a “child” is child abuse certainly requires some time to research and argue.  I don’t know the answer to that legal question, but the court should give the defense time to research and argue it.  (Update 11:35 a.m. — Judge just indicated she will give defense time to research, but didn’t indicate how long until 1 p.m.)

We will update this post when the court rules.

UPDATE: Judge will NOT give jury instruction on 3d Degree Murder / Child Abuse.


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