DETROIT -

A judge has become the center of a closely watched murder trial.

Judge Michael Hathaway, against the prosecution's request, said Wednesday afternoon that the Tigh Croff case will go to the jury as manslaughter, not second-degree murder.

Hathaway called the case "textbook manslaughter."

The judge said Croff was acting under the heat of passion when he chased and killed Herbert Silas after finding him and another man trying to break into his Detroit home on Dec. 28, 2009.

Police said at 12:30 a.m., Croff began chasing two men he found standing in his back yard on the city's east side.

One of the men ran away, but 53-year-old Silas, of Detroit, turned around and had a verbal exchange with Croff, who then shot him.

Hathaway said that since Croff, 31, had been robbed two times that week, the third burglary put him over the edge and caused him to react without reflection.

Hathaway reduced the charge to manslaughter and sent it to the jury.

Wayne County Prosecutors said the court should not make those judgments.

Croff was charged with second-degree murder, which is punishable by a potential life sentence. Manslaughter is punishable by up to a maximum of 15 years in prison.

The case will continue Thursday.

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