George Zimmerman Trial: What is Third-Degree Felony Murder?

ByGabriel Grand

Update 1:04 PM - The judge has decided to take third-degree felony murder off of the jury instructions because she does not believe there is enough evidence in support of it.

Attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial are currently arguing before the judge about whether or not the jury should consider the lesser charge of third-degree murder in its deliberations.

Prosecutor Richard Mantei argued that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin because Martin was 17 at the time. Under Florida law, Zimmerman's actions could constitute a felony of the third-degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Judge Debra Nelson is expected to make a ruling on whether or not her instructions to the jury will include the possibility of this alternate charge when the court reconvenes at 1 PM on Thursday.

The defense called the prosecution's proposal "outrageous" and accused the prosecution of springing the charge at the last minute as "a trick."

"Just when I thought this case couldn't get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third degree murder charges based on child abuse?" defense attorney Don West said. He later added, "It's just hard for me to imagine that the court could take this seriously."

The state originally accused Zimmerman of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Gabe Grand is an editorialist for PolicyMic who covers the George Zimmerman trial. For more live updates and opinions on the proceedings, follow him on Twitter:

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