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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

George Zimmerman granted $150K bond, apologizes to Trayvon Martin’s family

ORLANDO, Fla. — After more than a week in jail, George Zimmerman found out Friday that he will be allowed bond on the second-degree murder charge he faces in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000. He will be placed on GPS monitoring, and will not be released from custody Friday.

Zimmerman arrived in court about 9 a.m., wearing a suit and handcuffs, with a chain across his waist. Also in the courtroom were Special Prosecutor Angela Corey; Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin; and family attorney Benjamin Crump.

Minutes before the judge ruled on his bond, Zimmerman took the stand and apologized to Martin’s family. He was the last person to testify in court Friday morning.

“I did not know if he was armed or not,” Zimmerman said of Martin on the night of the shooting. He said he’s sorry for the Martin family’s loss.

Asked why he waited so long to apologize, Zimmerman said he was told not to reach out to the family.

After brief testimony from Zimmerman, his attorney argued that his bail should be set at $15,000. O’Mara cited Zimmerman’s financial difficulties in arguing for the bond. He also pointed out that Zimmerman has been cooperative with law enforcement.

“He came in voluntarily and surrendered himself to law enforcement,” O’Mara said. “He is well established in the community.”

Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda argued that the court should consider that Martin “was minding his own business” when he encountered Zimmerman. He was not committing a crime, De La Rionda said.

He asked for either no bond or a bond of $1 million.

State Attorney’s investigator Dale Gilbreath testified earlier. O’Mara questioned him about the probable cause affidavit he signed for the second-degree murder charge. Gilbreath said he did not expect to testify at the hearing.

O’Mara grilled Gilbreath on his use of the word “profiling” in describing Zimmerman’s behavior that night, asking why he used the term. Gilbreath said the term indicates that Zimmerman saw the teen, then formed an opinion of him not based on any facts.

O’Mara asked Gilbreath about unattributed statements in several sections of the affidavit.

“‘Zimmerman confronted Martin.’ Those words, where’d you get them from,” O’Mara asked.

“According to one of the witnesses that we talked with, there were arguing words going on before this incident occurred,” Gilbreath said. He said “confronted,” the word O’Mara took issue with, was one of probably 30 he could have used.

Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda then questioned Gilbreath. He asked if there was any evidence that Martin shouldn’t have been in the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, or was breaking any law. Gilbreath said no.

Gilbreath testified that there is video of Martin buying Skittles and iced tea before the shooting. He also said that Martin was unarmed.

During further questioning by O’Mara, Gilbreath admitted that the state has no evidence who started the fight. There is also no evidence that Zimmerman didn’t walk back to his car after chasing Martin on foot, as the defendant has claimed.

However, he said that Zimmerman’s statements, as well as his description of the injuries he suffered, are contradicted by other evidence in the case.

De La Rionda bristled when questioned by reporters after the hearing about Gilbreath’s testimony.

“I think you don’t have all the evidence,” he said. “Please be patient and wait for the trial.”

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

As the hearing began, O’Mara surrendered Zimmerman’s passport. Then, members of Zimmerman’s family began testifying by phone, as had been arranged Thursday.

Zimmerman’s mother, Gladys Zimmerman, said she’s concerned for her son’s safety, as the family has received threats.

Gladys Zimmerman testified that her son was active in protesting in 2010, when a Sanford police lieutenant’s son was caught on camera punching a homeless man outside a bar. George handed out fliers advocating for an arrest, “so that poor man could have justice,” she said.

She said her son is very protective of people, regardless of race. He also worked as a mentor for children in need, she said.

Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, said he would alert the court if his son failed to adhere to the conditions of his bond.

He said he doesn’t have much money to help his son with bail, but would take a second mortgage on his home to help secure his son’s release.

“I’m a disabled veteran, and don’t have a great deal of income,” the elder Zimmerman said. Of his son, he said, “I’ve never known him to be violent at all unless otherwise provoked, then he’d turn the other cheek.”

Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda then asked Robert Zimmerman about his son’s finances. He also asked Robert Zimmerman about his son’s prior 2005 arrest, in which he was accused of striking a law enforcement officer near the University of Central Florida.

He said his son has “always been interested in criminal justice,” and is an honest man.

“I believe him because he’s been honest his whole life,” Robert Zimmerman said. He said he saw his son the day after the shooting, and he had gashes on the back of his head. His face was swollen, the elder Zimmerman said.

Shellie Nicole Zimmerman, the defendant’s wife, was the first to testify. She said she’s been married to George Zimmerman for five years, but hasn’t been with him since he went into hiding after the shooting.

She said she would do everything in her power to guarantee that her husband attends court hearings. She also agreed to tell the court if she loses contact with her husband.

“Absolutely, I will,” she said. She gave short answers to O’Mara’s questions, explaining that she and other family members have been working to “to scrape up anything that we possibly can” for bond. She is not currently employed.

Shellie Zimmerman testified that she fears for her husband’s safety if he is released. She asked that the court keep his address secret. She also said that she does not believe her husband is a danger to the community.

De La Rionda, the prosecutor, then questioned Shellie Zimmerman. He asked her about her husband’s 2005 arrest.

“The police officer did not identify himself,” Shellie Zimmerman told De La Rionda. The prosecutor then brought up a domestic violence injunction filed against George Zimmerman by an ex-fiancee.

“I am aware that he had to protect himself from her,” Shellie Zimmerman said. “Absolutely he is not a violent person,” nor a threat to the community.

Zimmerman has been in jail in Seminole County since last week, when Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced his arrest for killing Martin Feb. 26 in a Sanford gated community.

Critics say Zimmerman was guilty of racial profiling, but Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense, pulling his gun only after Martin knocked him to the ground then began pounding his head against a sidewalk.

Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman, setting off weeks of protests nationwide, a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, the appointment of a special prosecutor and the ouster — at least temporarily — of Sanford’s police chief.

But on April 11 Zimmerman was arrested. He came out of hiding to surrender to Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents after Corey, the state attorney in Jacksonville, charged him with second-degree murder.

He’s been in the Seminole County Jail since then.

It is not clear where Zimmerman will go if granted bail. He lived in hiding for weeks after the shooting.

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