By USA TODAY
SANFORD, Fla. -- A judge ruled Friday that George Zimmerman can be released on a $150,000 bond during a hearing in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and after Zimmerman took the stand and apologized to Trayvon's parents.
"I am sorry for the loss of your son," he said in his first public comments about the shooting. "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."
When he was questioned by the prosecutor Zimmerman said he told officers the night of the shooting that he was sorry for Trayvon's death. He said he didn't contact the teen's family because he was told not to communicate them.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said there is a possibility Zimmerman will be allowed to go out of state because of worries about his safety, but details need to be worked out among the attorneys and law enforcement.
Zimmerman will wear an electronic monitoring device, cannot have any firearms, drink alcohol or use drugs and must observe a curfew. He will not be released immediately.
The parents of Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton, left, and Tracy Martin, attend a bond hearing Friday for George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon.
Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, spotted Trayvon who was walking back home after going to a nearby store. He said he shot him in self defense. During Friday's hearing Zimmerman stared straight ahead with no expression on his face, wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt and silver grey tie, his hands shackled to his waist.
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in February. Zimmerman's family members testified for their son's release by phone because they said they feared for their safety. Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, said her husband is not a violent person and poses no threat to society. "He is absolutely not a violent person, nor a threat to the community," said his wife of five years. Shellie Zimmerman, who is a nursing student, said she had received hate mail and that she and her husband had been living in hiding since the shooting in February.
Zimmerman's father, Robert, said his son was not violent and had been honest all his life. "I've never known him to be violent at all unless he was provoked, and then he would turn the other cheek," said Robert Zimmerman, a former court magistrate. The father also described what he said were his son's injuries Feb. 27, 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 elder Zimmerman testified. Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, said her son was recognized by the mayor of Sanford for helping a homeless man who had been beaten. She also said that her son mentored two African-American children in Orlando and visited them often despite her objection that they lived in a "dangerous" area.
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 R. Campbell - an assistant to attorney Benjamin Crump - in an email Thursday.
Zimmerman's bond hearing was unusually long and detailed and his testimony and apology was an uncommon occurrence that could hurt him, some Florida criminal defense attorneys said Friday. "I am stunned he testified," said Mark McBride, a criminal defense attorney in Beverly Hills. "It's outrageous - very uncommon. It's the first time I have ever heard it happening, and it was in a murder case."
McBride said taking the stand opened Zimmerman up to questioning that can be later used against him in trial. "If they say something that you as a defense lawyer don't count on them saying it can kill your trial," McBride said. "He said 'I don't know if he was armed or not' - the prosecutor could have a field day with that at trial."
Randy Reep, a criminal defense attorney based in Jacksonville said putting Zimmerman on the stand was an usual and "dangerous" tactic by defense attorney Mark O'Mara. He said O'Mara may have been trying to humanize Zimmerman to the judge, but he also may be attempting to try the case in the court of public opinion. "I cannot think of a time that I have ever put a client on the stand in a bond hearing," Reep said. "No good is going to come out of putting my client on the stand."
Bob Fisher, a prosecutor for eight years in Seminole County, said that in a case where the government is attempting to have the judge deny bail, the level of detail in Friday's hearing is common. "I am sure that some of what occurred today was probably attributable to that this was a high profile case," he added.
Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor and Natalie DiBlasio in McLean, Va.; Associated Press.