A Florida judge set bail for George Zimmerman, accused of murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, at $150,000, with the requirement that he submit to electronic monitoring,
Zimmerman, 28, fatally shot Martin Feb. 26 in the central- Florida town north of Orlando. He claimed self-defense, police said, before being charged with second-degree murder. He is to be arraigned next month and will plead not guilty, his lawyer said.
Appearing yesterday at the bail proceeding in state court in Sanford in a dark suit and silver tie, with his hands restrained by a waist-chain and his ankles shackled, Zimmerman addressed Martin’s parents.
“I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said to the couple, who sat behind the prosecution table. “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am.” Zimmerman added that he thought he may have been armed.
In a press conference afterwards, defense lawyer Mark O’Mara said that while it’s unusual for a defendant to testify at a bond hearing, Zimmerman had heard that Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, only wanted him to answer two questions: if he was sorry and why he killed her unarmed 17-year-old son.
Police alleged that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had become suspicious of Martin and chased the unarmed teen against the warning of an emergency dispatcher. He told investigators that he struggled with Martin before shooting him once in the chest. Yesterday, however, a detective testified that he didn’t know who initiated the confrontation.
In an affidavit he filed with T.C. O’Steen, another investigator, Dale Gilbreath claimed Zimmerman referred to Martin and alleged burglars in his community by several expletives, calling them “punks” while on a 911 call the day of the confrontation. At the bail hearing, Zimmerman’s lawyer repeatedly asked Gilbreath whether he chose to include that language in the filing.
Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. rejected a request by prosecutors that he deny bail because Zimmerman faces a possible life sentence if convicted. The defense asked for bail of $15,000. Lester ruled that Zimmerman will be subject to a curfew, may not consume alcohol and must not contact the Martin family or any witnesses.
Zimmerman wasn’t expected to be released yesterday as the attorneys negotiated whether he can reside out of state as he awaits trial. His family testified they had received several threats.
Threats to Family
O’Mara asked that Zimmerman be allowed to stay outside Florida at an undisclosed location due to the threats. Lester said O’Mara would have to reach an agreement with the government on whether his client could leave the state before his release.
O’Mara said later in an interview that Zimmerman will make bail “within a few days.”
Lester also said that he would allow the release of the case file, with portions redacted. O’Mara had previously requested that it remain sealed. He scheduled the next hearing in the case for April 27.
Gilbreath, the investigator with the state attorney’s office, testified at the hearing that Zimmerman’s statements to police were inconsistent with the evidence in the case.
“We have a witness statement. She observed shadows or figures running by her residence,” he said. Gilbreath also testified the powder burns caused by gunfire on Martin’s sweatshirt show he was shot at very close range.
Started the Fight
When questioned by O’Mara, he said he didn’t know who started the fight that led to Martin’s death.
“Do you know who started the fight?” O’Mara asked Gilbreath.
“Do I know? No,” he responded.
Special prosecutor Angela Corey, who was appointed to oversee the investigation, sat in the gallery during the testimony, in the row behind Assistant State’s Attorney Bernie de la Rionda. He questioned witnesses for the government during the two-hour hearing.
O’Mara had his client’s family members testify during the hearing. The judge allowed testimony by telephone because the family said they feared for their safety.
Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, said via telephone at the proceeding he would be willing to put his home up as collateral for bail.
“I’ve never known him to be violent at all unless he was provoked, and then he would turn the other cheek,” he said about his son in response to questions from lawyers.
Zimmerman’s wife and his mother testified the defendant’s only prior arrest was because he was protecting a friend.
Shelly Zimmerman, the defendant’s wife of five years, said her husband wasn’t violent and that a 2005 arrest for assault on a law enforcement officer resulted from her husband defending a friend who was thrown against the wall.
Zimmerman didn’t know the man who assaulted his friend was an officer in plain clothes, she said. Prosecutors said the officer identified himself. The case eventually was settled with pretrial intervention and Zimmerman agreed to participate in anger management counseling.
In another case, Zimmerman and another woman filed injunctions against each other after a fight, witnesses testified.
Lester said before granting bail that the incidents had no effect on his decision.
Shelly Zimmerman agreed to make sure her husband followed all conditions of bail and report to authorities if he violated any.
“Absolutely I will,” she responded to both questions.
“Do you believe George is a threat to society?” O’Mara asked her. “No, I do not. No concern whatsoever,” she said.
His mother, Gladys Zimmerman, said her son always had been a good Samaritan, including organizing several meetings in Sanford to help find a man who beat a homeless man.
She said he also mentored two boys, ages 8 and 14, in a dangerous part of Orlando for several years. She had begged him to stop going to see the boys, she told the court.
“He said, ‘Mom, if I don’t go, they have nobody,’” his mother testified.
The case is State of Florida v. Zimmerman, 1712FO4573, Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit (Seminole County).
To contact the reporters on this story: Derek Kinner in Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit in Sanford, Florida, at firstname.lastname@example.org; Susannah Nesmith in Miami at email@example.com.
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