Defense attorney Don West slammed prosecutors on Thursday for what he said was an “outrageous” proposal that the jury be allowed to consider third-degree murder because it would mean that George Zimmerman committed “child abuse” when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
“Oh, my God!” West exclaimed at the proposal. “Just when I thought that this case couldn’t get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third-degree murder based on child abuse?”
“[Prosecuting attorney] Mr. [Richard] Mantei dumped all of this on us around 7:30 this morning, there was an email, ‘Oh, by the way, we’ve changed our lesser included request from aggravated assault to third-degree murder based on child abuse,’” he complained. “And put 10 or 15 cases that obviously he has spent hours if not days, if not, in fact, maybe more than a year plotting for this moment when he can spring it on us and the court.”
“This is outrageous!” he continued. “It’s outrageous that the state would seek to do this at this time in this case.”
“That’s not proper argument,” Judge Debra Nelson warned.
“It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to Mr. Zimmerman or Mr. O’Mara or the court!” West replied.
Nelson pointed out that the defense had been aware of the jury instructions since the beginning of the trial, but tabled the discussion until later in the day.
“Their argument today is that the facts support a third-degree felony murder with the underlying enumerated felony being child abuse,” Nelson said. “That is permissible under the statute. If you need — I’m not going to give you hours.”
Separate from the possibility of third-degree murder, the judge later ruled that the jury would be able to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast July 11, 2013.