Published April 20, 2012
URGENT: George Zimmerman can be released on $150,000 bail as he awaits trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a judge ruled Friday during a hearing that saw Zimmerman apologize to Martin's parents for the teenager's death.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set several conditions Friday for Zimmerman's release, which he said would not occur Friday, but he did not say when exactly 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 is charged with second-degree murder in the 17-year-old's death during a February confrontation in a Sanford, Fla., gated community. He is claiming self-defense.
The bail for Zimmerman was announced shortly after he took the witness stand, telling the parents of Martin, "I am sorry for the loss of your son," but standing by his claim that he killed the teen in self-defense.
Zimmerman told Martin's parents, who were present in the courtroom, that he did not know that Martin was 17, or that he was unarmed during their February confrontation in the central Florida neighborhood.
"I did not know how old he was," Zimmerman said. "I thought he was a little younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not."
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 firearms, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs and must observe a curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Zimmerman surrendered his passport at the start of the hearing.
Zimmerman's wife and parents testified by phone earlier that he is not a violent person. Zimmerman's father told the courtroom that his son always "turns the other cheek."
But prosecutors asked Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, about two incidents they said demonstrate that he has a violent nature. In one case, Zimmerman took anger management courses after an undercover police officer said Zimmerman attacked him. In another instance, a former girlfriend accused Zimmerman of assaulting her.
Zimmerman appeared at the hearing wearing a suit but in shackles. Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, surrendered his passport to the court at the start of the hearing.
The hearing took place just hours after ABC News released an exclusive photograph that claims to show the bloodied back of Zimmerman's head. The photo, reportedly taken three minutes after Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, appears to support Zimmerman's claim that Martin had bashed his head against concrete.
Legal experts say factors in Zimmerman's favor include that he has ties to the local community and that he doesn't appear to be a flight risk since he turned in voluntarily after second-degree murder charges were filed against him last week. He also has never been convicted of a crime, which would indicate he doesn't pose a threat to society.
"Although it's not routine for people charged with murder to get bond, they do get bond, and I think there is an excellent argument to be made in his specific case for him to be released on bond," Randy McClean, a defense attorney who practices in Seminole County, about 15 miles northeast of Orlando, said.
Martin was walking home from a convenience store on Feb. 26 when Zimmerman spotted him from his truck and called police to report him as suspicious. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which eliminates a person's duty to retreat under threat of death or serious injury.
The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protests nationwide, several in Seminole County, in which participants chanted and held signs that said, "Arrest Zimmerman Now!" Anger over a delay in Zimmerman's arrest led to the Sanford police chief stepping down temporarily and the recusal of the prosecutor who normally handles cases out of Sanford. Sanford city officials were holding a town hall meeting Thursday to address some of the residual anger from the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.