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George Zimmerman's Prosecutors Want To Charge Him With Child Abuse, And His Lawyer Is Freaking Out

Don West George Zimmerman
Don West George Zimmerman

Reuters/Joe Burbank/Pool

Defense counsel Don West (L) angrily addresses assistant state attorney John Guy in frustration after a late night court session in the George Zimmerman trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Florida, late July 9, 2013.

George Zimmerman's prosecutors want to add lesser charges for the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, including manslaughter and third-degree murder, possibly because they're worried he'll be acquitted.

Originally, Zimmerman just faced second-degree murder charges for shooting and killing 17-year-old Martin. He claims self-defense, saying that Martin punched him in the face and smashed his head into the sidewalk.

In the state of Florida, third-degree murder doesn't require proving that Zimmerman acted with some sort of "ill will" or hatred. The new charge, however, does need a felony-basis. In a surprising move, the prosecution argued Zimmerman committed child abuse as the felony required for third-degree murder.

Richard Mantei, one prosecutor in the case, explained, "When one commits ... child abuse, and the child dies — the child being defined as a person under the age of 18 — that can constitute felony murder in the third degree." Judge Debra Nelson noted that child abuse must be intentional. "Shooting is an intentional act. The question is whether is was justifiable, not intentional," Mantei responded.

Lead attorney for the defense Don West called the prosecution's move "outrageous" multiple times. "Just when I thought this case couldn't get anymore bizarre," he began his rebuttal. He doesn't believe the court should even take the charge seriously.

Judge Nelson shelved the discussion until later. The court will spend the rest of the morning solidifying the jury's instruction, and closing arguments begin at 1:00 p.m.

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