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Bail set at $150 000 in Trayvon Martin case

20 April 2012, 18:00

Florida - George Zimmerman can be released on $150 000 bail as he awaits trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a judge ruled on Friday during a hearing in which Zimmerman apologised to Martin's parents for the teenager's death.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set several conditions for Zimmerman's release, which he said would not occur on Friday. He did not say exactly when Zimmerman could go free. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, also wants his client to be allowed to live in another state because of threats made against him, and wear a GPS monitor to track his whereabouts.

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the 26 Febreuary shooting of the 17-year-old Martin. He claims self-defence and has said Martin was the aggressor in their confrontation at a gated community where Martin was staying.

Zimmerman was a neighbourhood watch volunteer at the community, where he also lived.

The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protests nationwide in which participants chanted and held signs that said, "Arrest Zimmerman Now!"

Wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt and grey tie  - but also shackled and appearing to have on a bulletproof vest - Zimmerman took the witness stand to deliver a short statement to Martin's parents, who were in court.

"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. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said in his first public comments about the shooting.

The judge said he would hold another hearing on whether Zimmerman could go out of state if details could not be worked out with law enforcement.

Zimmerman cannot have any guns, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs and must observe a curfew between 19:00. and 06:00. Zimmerman surrendered his passport at the start of the hearing.

Earlier, Zimmerman's parents and wife testified by phone in the hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, saying he is not a flight risk nor a threat to the community.

Zimmerman's family members were testifying by phone because they say they have been threatened.

"He is absolutely not a violent person," his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, testified.

Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman snr, said that even when confronted his son was likely to "turn the other cheek". The father also described what he said were his son's injuries on 27 Februar, the morning after Martin was shot and killed.

"His face was swollen quite a bit. He had a protective cover over his nose. His lip was swollen and cut. And there were two vertical gashes on the back of his head," the Robert Zimmerman testified.

Prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda asked the family members about two incidents. In 2005, George Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after an undercover law enforcement officer accused him of attacking him as he tried to arrest Zimmerman's friend.

In another incident, a girlfriend accused Zimmerman of attacking her. No charges were filed.

Zimmerman asked to meet with Trayvon Martin's parents before the hearing, but the family's lawyers said this was not the time.

"We believe [the] Zimmerman request is very self-serving, considering the timing of it 50 days later, right before his bond hearing," said Justin Campbell - an assistant to attorney Benjamin Crump - in an e-mail on Thursday.

Kim Cannaday, a spokesperson for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, said she couldn't comment on what security procedures would be in place for Zimmerman if he is released.

The sheriff's office does have the ability to monitor defendants outside the county if a judge requests a GPS monitor be used as a condition of release.

- AP


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