A Florida judge has granted bail for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000, but said he would not be released today, pending deliberations about the terms of the release.
The bail hearing featured dramatic testimony from Zimmerman, who took the stand and offered an apology to Martin’s parents.
“I wanted to say that I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman said, adding that he did not know how old Martin was or that he was unarmed.
“I thought he was a little bit younger than I am,” he said. “I did not know whether he was armed or not.”
Assistant prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda requested that the judge set no bail or require a bond of $1 million, arguing that Zimmerman’s past history of violence and the evidence against him in the shooting of Martin made him a threat to the public.
“Our position is that he will still be a danger to the community,” De La Rionda said.
Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, asked for bail of just $15,000 and requested that Zimmerman be allowed to leave the state while on bond.
Judge Lester ordered O’Mara to confer with state prosecutors and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department on the terms of Zimmerman’s confinement, and to request an additional ruling if an agreement could not be met.
No date has been set for Zimmerman’s trial, but the bail hearing provided a brief preview of the fierce legal battle likely to unfold once the case goes before a Florida jury.
O’Mara used the bail hearing to grill the state’s lead investigator on the case over the evidence supporting a probable cause affidavit used to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder.
Under questioning from O’Mara, Dale Gilbreath, the investigator, testified that the state did not have evidence indicating “who threw the first blow” in the confrontation that led to Martin’s death.
Gilbreath also confirmed that Zimmerman had two lacerations on the back of his head. A picture purportedly showing blood running down the back of Zimmerman’s head was published by ABC News this morning.
But Gilbreath also described previously undisclosed evidence the state plans to present at Zimmerman’s trial, while under questioning from Rionda, the assistant prosecutor.
Gilbreath testified that Zimmerman repeatedly contradicted himself while being interviewed by police and provided statements inconsistent with physical evidence and witness recollections.
Prosecutors have also located a witness near the site of the shooting who described seeing the shadows of two men pass by her home, one chasing the other, immediately before Martin was killed. The pursuit, in the direction of Martin’s home, indicates that Zimmerman initiated the confrontation, Gilbreath said, under questioning from Rionda.
Zimmerman’s mother, father and wife testified by phone at the hearing, describing Zimmerman as a non-violent man who was not a threat to the community.
“I’ve never known him to be violent at all, unless he was provoked, and then he would turn the other cheek,” said Robert Zimmerman, his father.
All three family members said they had no idea how much money had been raised by a website established by George Zimmerman to collect donations to aid his defense. Zimmerman’s parents said they did not have much income, but pledged their home as security for their son’s bond.
The hearing came to a close with the appearance of George Zimmerman on the stand. Wearing a gray suit and silver tie, with his hands shackled, Zimmerman offered an apology to Martin’s family, who were sitting in the courtroom.
An attorney for Martin’s family told reporters that the apology was “self-serving.”
Zimmerman was briefly cross-examined by Rionda, the assistant prosecutor, but the judge did not permit him to question Zimmerman about the night Martin was shot.
Rionda asked Zimmerman if he had changed his story to police “as it went along.”
“Absolutely not,” Zimmerman said.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, told The Huffington Post that Zimmerman’s in-court apology was too little too late, and the family see it as a ploy for sympathy.
“They feel it was just so self-serving, that it was one of those things that was not sincere,” he said. “We can only guess that his motive was to get sympathy. It’s 50 days later at his bond hearing, and for the first time he’s saying, ‘I’m sorry for killing Trayvon.’”
The attorney noted that Zimmerman had launched a website in recent weeks on which he thanks his supporters and posts photos of signs and graffiti that read “Long Live Zimmerman,” but made no mention of an apology or expressed sympathy for Martin’s family.
As for the judge granting Zimmerman a $150,000 bond, Crump said the family has no choice but to deal with it, though they had hoped it would be revoked.
“The family is devastated that the killer gets to get out of jail,” Crump said. “They hope it’s temporary, especially knowing that the damage that he caused them is permanent.”
“Every accused person in America gets the right to have a bond hearing,” Crump added. “The judge listened to both sides and we just have to live with it.”