Bond revoked for suspect in Florida shooting
SANFORD, Florida (AP) — A judge on Friday revoked the bond of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with shooting dead an unarmed black 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, and ordered him returned to jail within 48 hours.
George Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder and claims self-defense. Zimmerman shot Martin in February during a confrontation at a gated community of townhouses in Sanford, Florida, where Zimmerman lived and where Martin was visiting his father’s fiancee.
The delay in an arrest for 44 days prompted protests nationwide and led to Sanford’s police chief stepping aside so emotions could cool down.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said that George Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, misled the court about how much money they had available when his bond was set for $150,000 in April. Prosecutors claim Zimmerman had $135,000 available that had been raised by a website he set up.
Zimmerman’s wife testified at the bond hearing that they had limited funds available since she was a nursing student and Zimmerman wasn’t working.
“He can’t sit back and obtain the benefit of a lower bond based upon those material falsehoods,” Lester said.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said the fact that Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything indicated “there was no deceit.”
Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda described the Zimmermans’ testimony as “misleading.”
“This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny,” said De la Rionda. “It was misleading and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients have always said Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial, which O’Mara said he believed wouldn’t be until next year.
Crump was asked if he thought that if Zimmerman would be willing to lie about his finances that he would be willing to lie about what happen the night Martin was killed.
“We fully expect that the special prosecutor will make George Zimmerman’s credibility be front and center in this entire case,” Crump said. “And whatever dishonesty that comes forth by George Zimmerman that they can prove, you can best believe it will be the issue of this case and rightfully so.”
Prosecutors also said Zimmerman had failed to surrender a second passport, but the judge dismissed that concern as the equivalent of someone who has lost a driver’s license, applies for a new one and then finds the old driver’s license.
At Friday’s court hearing, De la Rionda and O’Mara also asked a judge to stop the public release of witness names and statements made by Zimmerman to police officers. Those documents normally are part of the public record under Florida law.
“What’s occurring, unfortunately, are cases are being tried in the public sector as opposed to in the courtroom,” De La Rionda said. “We are in a new age with Twitter, Facebook, and all these things I’ve never heard of before in my career. Everybody gets to find out intimate details about witnesses that never occurred before. Witnesses are going to be reluctant to get involved.”
A consortium of more than a dozen media groups, including The Associated Press, asked the judge to ignore the request, saying such records are presumed to be publicly available under Florida law.
O’Mara said he expects to call on 50 witnesses who need to be deposed before he decides whether to file a “stand your ground” motion which would ask for a hearing before a judge without a jury. At the hearing, Zimmerman would argue self-defense under the Florida law which gives wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if people believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured.
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