Jury requests clarification on the charge of manslaughter
by Rachel Delinski, Herald Editor
04:54 PM, Saturday, July 13
Defense counsel Mark O'Mara has George Zimmerman stand in the courtroom for the jury during defense closing arguments, on the 24th day of the his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Fla., Friday, July 12, 2013. Zimmerman is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, in 2012. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)
Defense counsel Mark O'Mara has George Zimmerman stand in the courtroom for the jury during defense closing arguments, on the 24th day of the his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Fla., Friday, July 12, 2013. Zimmerman is charged with 2nd-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, in 2012. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)
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Judge Debra Nelson brought counsel back to the courtroom around 6 p.m. this evening to deliver a jury question about the charge of manslaughter.

The question was, "May we please have clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter?"

Following the quesiton counsel met with Nelson at the bench and court was recessed for 30 minutes.

They have since returned and are drafting a response to the jurors. In their arguments before Judge Nelson they said they would need a more specific question, as it would be unlawful to engage in a discussion between the jury and the court.

The response written by counsel to give to jurors was: "The court cannot engage in general discussion but may able to address a specific question regarding clarification of the instructions regarding manslaughter. If you have a specific question, please submit it."

Court is on stand-by for 15 minutes in case the jurors would like to respond immediately.

George Zimmerman is charged with the second-degree murder for the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 in The Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood in Sanford. Zimmerman has maintained the shooting occurred in self-defense after Martin attacked him.

The instructions for the jury offer them three options for a verdict for Zimmerman: Not Guilty, Guilty of Second-Degree Murder, or Guilty of Manslaughter, a lesser charge.

The jury instructions as they are currently written about manslaughter read:

"To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Trayvon Martin is dead.

2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide:

Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence.

The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon George Zimmerman, or to commit a felony in any dwelling house in which George Zimmerman was at the time of the killing.

The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or

2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or

3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.

In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death.

If you find George Zimmerman committed Manslaughter, and you also find beyond a reasonable doubt that during the commission of the Manslaughter, George Zimmerman carried, displayed, used, threatened to use, or attempted to use a firearm, you should check the appropriate box on the verdict form which I will discuss with you later in these instructions."

It is unclear at this point if a new set of instructions have been provided to the jury, or if counsel is deciding on a new set of instructions. Court recessed for 30 minutes and should be back in session shortly.

Check back for updates as the story develops.

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