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Local attorney explains what jury must consider in Zimmerman trial

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Friday the jury will likely start deliberations in the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida.

The prosecution laid out its closing arguments Thursday and the defense is stating their case Friday.

Zimmerman claims he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after the teenager attacked him while he was on a neighborhood watch.

Many are watching the case with high emotion and that's why Kansas City, MO's police chief released a statement Thursday. Chief Darryl Forte wrote, "The racially charged case has brought up a lot of emotions across the nation, and some speculate the verdict could cause civil unrest.

"Kansas City is largely a community of good, law-abiding people, and we are confident people will react to the verdict as responsible citizens and respect the criminal justice process, just as we do."

He went on to write, "I ask all members of the community to respect each other. Respect one's right to voice an opinion, but also respect another's right to be safe."

Because there is so much focus on the case across the country, KCTV5's Dave Jordan talked with a local attorney to get an idea what the jurors must consider in the controversial case.

The judge in the case allowed the jury to consider manslaughter as a lesser offence in addition to the second-degree murder charge, and local defense attorney Phil Cardarella said Zimmerman could still be acquitted on both charges.

Cardarella wasn't surprised when Judge Debra Nelson allowed jurors in the Zimmerman case to consider manslaughter as an additional charge.

"In most murder cases, that instruction is given," Cardarella said.

The instruction did not come without objections from Zimmerman's defense attorneys.

"In this particular case, his lawyers didn't want that instruction to be given because they wanted to force the jury to either find him guilty of murder or turn him loose," Cardarella said.

Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self defense when he shot and killed Martin in Sanford, FL in back in February 2012. Prosecutors initially charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder but, even with two charges now before the jury, Cardarella said an acquittal is possible.

"The jury can find him 'not guilty' if they believe that he was reasonably in fear of death or grave bodily injury," he said.

Cardarella said the jurors may have a hard time getting past one important piece of information in the case.

"He gets out of the car with a loaded gun to follow this kid, ends up in a confrontation and then shoots the kid," he said.

Zimmerman did score a small victory in court Thursday. The judge rejected the prosecution's charge of third-degree felony murder, which included child abuse. He is facing up to life in prison on the second-degree murder charge and up to 30 years on the manslaughter charge.

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