What is Manslaughter? George Zimmerman Would Face Up to 30 Years

Prosecutors have asked the judge for the George Zimmerman trial to consider lesser charges. The state originally accused Zimmerman of second-degree murder.

However, on Thursday, Judge Debra Nelson agreed to instruct jurors to consider the lesser charge of manslaughter. Jury deliberations are expected to begin after the weekend, although they could start as early as Friday afternoon.

In order to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder under Florida law, the jury would have to find that Zimmerman's actions demonstrated "a depraved mind without regard for human life." Second-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Meanwhile, in order to find Zimmerman guilty of voluntary manslaughter, the jury would have to believe that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin was "neither excusable, nor justified."

Zimmerman has claimed protection under Florida's self-defense laws, which require him to show that his shooting of Martin was "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm."

Under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code, manslaughter with a firearm is a first degree felony punishable with up to 30 years in prison. It carries a minimum sentence of 9 and a quarter years 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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