Zimmerman Jury Asks for Clarification of Lesser Manslaughter Charges in 12th Hour of Deliberation

The jurors of the George Zimmerman trial are now well into their 12th hour of deliberation, and have remained silent until now. Minutes ago the jury broke their silence for the first time to ask the lawyers on both sides for a clarification of the manslaughter charges.

Zimmerman is facing charges of second-degree murder, but Judge Debra Nelson somewhat surprisingly decided at the last minute that the jury could also find Zimmerman guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Of course, in a highly watched trial like this one there's now all sorts of spot analysis floating around of what the question could indicate. Let's break it down.

Update: George Zimmerman has been found not guilty.

Does this mean the jury has decided against the second-degree murder charges and is now focusing on a "compromise" of manslaughter?

This seems to be the instant reaction of most of the cable news talking heads and Twitter analysts. Jurors were technically asked to consider the second-degree murder charges first before moving on to considering lesser charges. There's no guarantee they're actually following those directions.

No one has any idea what is actually going on in that jury room, and it could be just as likely the jury wants to know exactly what the lesser charges indicate before coming to a decision on the harsher charges. Let's remember manslaughter charges were not introduced to the case until just before closing arguments.

If anything, it seems that the jury isn't quite convinced he's 100 percent innocent at this time either. But, again, and we can't stress this enough, no one aside from the jurors have any idea what's going on in that room. It's those TV talking head's job to fill airtime speculating.

What the difference between Manslaughter and Second-Degree Murder?

Murder charges would put Zimmerman in jail for 25-to-life. Manslaughter (which would come with additional gun charges) would land him a sentence of 10-to-30 years.

A manslaughter verdict would mean that the jury believes that Zimmerman intentionally killed Martin, though that the act was committed without malice. It would however also mean that Zimmerman wasn't protected by "Stand Your Ground" self defense laws.

When will we hear the verdict?

The jury had gone home yesterday at around six, and has so far not asked to be dismissed for the night. That could indicate they're close to reaching a decision and may want to reach it tonight. Then again, it could mean nothing at all. It's all just speculation right now.

Both sides are now deciding how they wish the judge to reply to the jury's questions. We'll update when she speaks again.

Update: After deliberating with both sides Judge Nelson sent a message back to the jury essentially asking them to ask a more specific question about manslaughter.

Update 2: A verdict has been reached. Riptide will update as soon as it has been announced.

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Kyle Munzenrieder