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Posted by on Apr 20, 2012 in Law, Media, Politics, Society | 19 comments

Judge Sets $150,000 Bond For George Zimmerman: Zimmerman Apologizes to Trayvon Martin’s Parents (UPDATED)

A Florida judge has set bond at $150,000 for George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting case in a dramatic hearing in which Zimmerman apologized to the unarmed, dead teen’s parents — and the intense bail hearing foreshadowed what is likely to be a highly emotional general trial that could further polarize America:

A Florida judge set bond Friday at $150,000 for the release of George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin.

Judge Kenneth R. Lester, Jr. said Zimmerman would not be immediately released and that he would be electronically monitored via GPS. The terms of the bond include a curfew and no alcohol or guns. Also, Zimmerman must be in touch with authorities every three days. The judge wouldn’t rule on whether Zimmerman would be allowed to leave the state.

Zimmerman’s attorney had asked for a $15,000 bond, citing his client’s family’s modest financial holdings. The prosecution said Zimmerman should not be granted a bond, but if he is, it should be for $1 million.

And there was a bit of a surprise:

The judge’s ruling came after Zimmerman took the stand and said he felt sorry that Martin’s parents had lost their child.

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman said. He said that at the time of the shooting he did not know how old Martin was or whether he was armed.

He also said he previously had asked police and his attorneys to tell Martin’s family that he was sorry.

Speaking publicly for the first time since her husband shot the unarmed teenager in February, Zimmerman’s wife of almost five years said her husband is not a violent person and he poses no danger to the community.

“Absolutely he is not a violent person, nor a threat to the community,” Shellie Nicole Zimmerman testified at her husband’s bail hearing. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, is asking the court to release his client while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder in Martin’s death.

Shellie Zimmerman spoke to the court session through a phone connection because she is concerned for her safety, adding that she has received hate mail. She did not, however, report the mail to the police, she admitted upon cross-examination.

The Miami Herald:

It was unclear when Zimmerman, the volunteer watch captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, would actually be released, assuming he can meet the conditions. State prosecutors had asked for bail to be set at $1 million.

Zimmerman also unexpectedly took the stand in court Friday during his bond hearing, causing gasps in the courtroom, and told Trayvon’s parents he is sorry for their loss. He spoke, almost two hours into the hearing in Sanford, telling the court that his statement was for “the mother and the father.”

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.”

His attorney, Mark O’Mara, successfully argued for bond for Zimmerman, who has spent the past nine days as an inmate in Seminole County’s John E. Polk Correctional Facility. O’Mara emphasized that Zimmerman has ties to the area.

He faces a possible life sentence. The serious nature of the charges means prosecutor Angela Corey, specially appointed to the case, may have to present evidence beyond the arrest affidavit to meet the standard known as “proof evident, presumption great” for bond to be denied. That evidence could include witness statements, photos, even a confession, all clues to the strength of the state’s case against Zimmerman.

In a television interview Thursday, O’Mara said several safe locations have been secured for Zimmerman if he is released.

On Friday, ABC News also published what it said was an exclusive photo taken three minutes after Zimmerman shot Trayvon, showing the back of Zimmerman’s head with blood trickling down. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense in the case.

Sanford, which for weeks has worked to keep calm in a racially volatile case, is prepared for Zimmerman’s potential release, according to City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr., though he declined to offer any details. He said the city is equally prepared for the wave of media and others expected to be in Sanford for the bond hearing along with a Saturday rally in support of Zimmerman led by controversial Pastor Terry Jones. The church leader made headlines when he threatened to, and later burned a Quran.

This will clearly be a big story in coming months, particularly because it has also now become politicized. The politicization of the story became complete once Zimmerman contacted Fox News’ Sean Hannity, who has become Zimmerman’s highest profile, most unabashed media defender (in contrast to Al Sharpton who MSNBC lets cover the story even though he has become part of the story).

UPDATE: A quick look at Google stories on this shows how this has become almost political. Most stories about Zimmerman’s apology lead it with the apology. A Fox News story headline:

Trayvon Martin’s parents spurned offer to meet their son’s killer

And here is how they lead it:

The parents of Trayvon Martin have spurned an offer to meet with the man who killed their son a day before a judge ruled he could be freed on bond while he awaits trial for murder.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed the 17-year-old, shared a courtroom with the Martin family at his bond hearing, where he told them he was “sorry for the loss of your son.” His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said Zimmerman wants to express his feeling directly.

“There’s no reason not to have a conversation,” O’Mara told the Orlando Sentinel Thursday. “It should be personal, it should be private.”

But the grieving parents said through their attorney they do not want to meet him. Family attorney Benjamin Crump said the family had to brace themselves to be the same room as Zimmerman.

“The meeting is not appropriate right now,” Crump said. “We think that it’s self-serving, right now, to say, ‘I want to apologize the day before my bond hearing.'”

The earliest Fox News story reported it as most others.

How the CNN International story reports it:

(CNN) — George Zimmerman apologized Friday to the family of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed African-American teen that he shot in a confrontation that riveted a nation and sparked intense discussions about race, racial profiling and gun laws.

Zimmerman spoke moments before a Florida judge set a $150,000 bond that will let him get out of jail while he awaits trial.

“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman said in an unusual appeal directly to Martin’s family before he testified. “I thought he was a little bit younger than I was, and I did not know if he was armed or not.”

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said after the hearing that his client was responding to an interview in which Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she wanted to hear from the man who shot her son.

“He didn’t want to defend himself, he didn’t want to discuss the facts of the case. He heard the request of the family, and he wanted to respond to it,” O’Mara said.

Attorneys for Martin’s family, however, called the apology self-serving by a man facing a life prison sentence if convicted of the second-degree murder charge against him.

“This was the most disingenuous, insulting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson.

Martin’s parents were “completely devastated” over the decision to allow Zimmerman to go free, attorney Benjamin Crump said.

Several stories also reported Zimmerman’s wife’s assertions.

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