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George Zimmerman must wait: Bail hearing ends without decision

June 29, 2012|By Michael Muskal

A Florida judge reserved judgment on whether to once again grant George Zimmerman bail on a charge that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American teenager.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester adjourned the almost three-hour, televised hearing without issuing a ruling on whether to grant Zimmerman, 28, bail on a charge of second-degree murder in the case that touched off racially charged demonstrations across the country. It was Lester who revoked Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond earlier this month after prosecutors complained that he and his wife had misled the court about their ability to pay for a bail bond.

Zimmerman, who has been in jail since surrendering June 3, was returned to the Seminole County Jail. Lester gave no indication on when he will rule on the bail request.

The prosecution argued that Zimmerman should continue to be jailed, while defense attorney Mark O’Mara urged Lester to again grant the $150,000 bond. Zimmerman should “not spend the next year in jail for a crime for which he may have an affirmative defense,” O’Mara argued.

Zimmerman has acknowledged shooting Martin on Feb. 26 during a confrontation at a gated community in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer. Martin was visiting his father and had just returned from a convenience store.

Martin’s relatives have argued that Zimmerman profiled Trayvon because he was black. Zimmerman has argued that he shot Martin in self-defense as the pair fought. As a result of the case, Florida’s stand-your-ground self-defense law, considered to be one of the broadest self-defense measures in the country, has become a national issue.

The Sanford police did not charge Zimmerman, but a special prosecutor appointed during the wave of protests did. Lester granted the original $150,000 bail after Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, testified that they could not afford more because she was studying nursing and he was unemployed.

But Zimmerman had created a website to solicit funds. During recorded jailhouse conversations, the couple discussed the money in a code and how to transfer the funds. The money is now under the control of an administrator.

“It was done to hide the money so they could deceive the court, lie to the court. Mrs. Zimmerman lied to the court and this defendant just sat there and let it happen,” prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said Friday.

Shellie Zimmerman has been charged with perjury and is out of jail on a $1,000 bond. Her next court date is July 31.

The defense has repeatedly apologized for Zimmerman not being more forthcoming and O’Mara again tried to belittle the finances issue. “It is not the grand conspiracy the state seems to suggest,” O'Mara said.

At times, the hearing took on the flavor more often associated with a trial as the sides tried to convince Lester of their cases. The prosecution repeatedly pointed out Martin’s innocence to buttress the call to keep Zimmerman in jail and argued that Zimmerman was clearly the aggressor.

The defense sought to show that Zimmerman had been a model client while out on bail and deserves to again be released on a reasonable bond. O’Mara also presented evidence and testimony about the night of the fight to support his self-defense case, showing that Zimmerman sustained a broken nose as well as head wounds. Zimmerman’s father testified that the cry for help heard on one of the tapes played in court was his son’s voice.

Zimmerman testified at his first bail hearing and apologized to Martin’s family. He did not testify on Friday.

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Join Michael on Google+. Email: michael.muskal@latimes.com

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