It was not immediately clear how long it would take the 28-year-old Zimmerman to arrange his release.Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 slaying of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami Gardens boy who was living out a week's school suspension at his father's girlfriend's apartment in Sanford, a central Florida city of 54,000. The case became a matter of nationwide fury and international headlines after police failed to arrest—and the Seminole County prosecutor failed to charge—Zimmerman. All the attention has put the spotlight on self-defense laws, racial profiling and criminal-justice in general.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said Friday that Zimmerman’s legal defense fund had a balance of $211,000, more than enough to cover the 10-percent non-refundable portion charged by most bonding companies.
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O'Mara barely touched on the key issue surrounding the hearing—why Zimmerman had lied to obtain low bail. He sought instead to paper over that issue and rouse sympathy for his client by justifying the action that landed him in jail in the first place. He said Zimmerman had concealed the significant amount of money he had acquired through a defense fund website because he feared for his life.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda shot that claim down when it was his turn: “Mr. Zimmerman sat there and allowed [his wife to make the false claim], manipulating the whole thing. They were lying to the court, and that is the most egregious part, and makes this an even more disturbing crime.”
Zimmerman has all along claimed he was attacked by Martin and shot the boy in self-defense. Due to the public uproar about the killing, which has included large protests in Sanford and elicited a comment from President Obama, Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor, Angela Corey, on March 22. Three weeks later she laid the charge against Zimmerman.
Zimmerman had been previously released on bail of $150,000 after an Aprll 20 hearing before Judge Lester. The bail was revoked June 1 when the judge learned a website had been bringing in $1,000 a day for Zimmerman. His wife Shellie had testified by telephone at the bail hearing that the couple was broke. It was subsequently learned that she had $57,000 in her personal bank account that day. The two had access to a total of at least $130,000 at the time.
A few days after bail was revoked and Zimmerman surrendered to police, Corey charged Shellie Zimmerman with perjury, accusing her of lying about the couple's finances. If convicted, she could face a year in jail. When Judge Lester revoked his bail, he stated that Zimmerman "...has now demonstrated that he does not properly respect the law or the integrity of the judicial process."
In his argument, O'Mara said Martin "was killed because of his own doing." De la Rionda said, “Our contention is that [Zimmerman]’s the aggressor and the person who could claim self-defense is the victim, Trayvon Martin.”
Witnesses for the defense Friday included a forensics accountant who traced the Zimmermans' money but apparently missed cash that had been transferred to a sister's account. He agreed that the transfers could have been an attempt to appear broke. Zimmerman's probation supervisor said he had followed all the rules after being granted bail, including keeping his court-ordered electronic tracking bracelet fully charged. The paramedic who treated Zimmerman at the scene of the shooting explained what injuries he found on Zimmerman, including extensive blood on his head and what he thought was probably a broken nose. Zimmerman's father Robert also testified.
But Zimmerman himself, his hair grown out and dressed in a suit and tie unlike in his previous appearance when he wore prison garb, did not testify. O'Mara tried to persuade the judge to allow his client simply to read a statement but not be cross-examined by the prosecution. When that failed, he chose not to put Zimmerman on the stand.
The defense played videotapes and audiotapes in the courtroom. One of those came from the security camera at a local 7-11 where Martin had gone to buy Skittles and tea the night he was shot to death. On the tape Martin is shown wearing the hoodie that itself has drawn extensive commentary and been used by supporters—including a U.S. Congressman on the floor of the House—as a protest against racial profiling. The showing in court of the 7-11 tape seemed itself to epitomize racial profiling, the apparent point being to show that Martin was somehow a scary presence the day he was killed, justifying Zimmerman's calling him suspicious and following him.
De la Rionda asked the judge to keep Zimmerman in the slam. He said the 28-year-old had racially profiled an innocent kid, behaved as if he were a police officer and shot Martin without having a clear threat to his life. He then argued that Zimmerman's wife had lied about their financial circumstances and the defendant himself was complicit in misleading the court because he didn't speak up and correct her.
As those who have followed the case know, it went further than mere omission in the courtroom. The couple had communicated in code about the money in recorded phone conversations while Zimmerman was held in jail before the first bail hearing.
After Friday's hearing, Benjamin Crump, lawyer for Martin's parents (Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton), had told The Miami Herald: “Tracy and Sybrina have always said they want the killer of their child to remain in jail until the trial. Our position is: Just because you claim to be scared and confused, that’s still no justification for lying to the court. What kind of message does that send?"