Monday, April 23, 2012

George Zimmerman freed on bail in Trayvon Martin case

George-Zimmerman-008 George Zimmerman has been released from a Florida county jail on $150,000 (£93,000) bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The neighborhood watch volunteer was released shortly before midnight on Sunday. Wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag, he walked out with another man past photographers gathered outside. Both then got into a white BMW vehicle and drove away.

Moments before, two Seminole county sheriff's vehicles blocked access to the parking lot where Zimmerman was being released.

No questions were shouted at Zimmerman and he gave no statement.

His destination was kept secret for his safety and it could be outside Florida.

Circuit judge Kenneth Lester said at a hearing on Friday he must observe a 7pm to 6am curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.

Zimmerman had to put up 10%, or $15,000, to make bail. His father indicated he might take out a second mortgage.

Zimmerman worked at a mortgage risk-management company at the time of the shooting and his wife is training to be a nurse. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman's defence fund. It is unclear how much has been raised.

Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, the fact that he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.

Prosecutors had asked for $1m bail, citing two previous scrapes Zimmerman had with the law, neither of which resulted in charges. In 2005, he had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest a friend. In another incident a girlfriend accused him of attacking her.

Zimmerman, 28, shot dead Martin, 17, on 26 February inside the gated community where Zimmerman lived. Martin was unarmed and was walking back to the home of his father's fiancee when Zimmerman saw him, called emergency services and began following him. A fight broke out – investigators say it is unknown who started it.

Zimmerman says Martin attacked him and he shot him in self-defence, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives broad legal protection to anyone who says they used deadly force because they feared death or great bodily harm.

Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks, sparking national protests led by Martin's parents, civil rights groups and the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

The Guardian

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