Judge revokes George Zimmerman bond in Trayvon Martin killing
Published June 01, 2012
SANFORD, Fla – URGENT: A judge on Friday revoked the bond of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ordered him returned to jail within 48 hours.
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.”
“I do think that the Zimmerman family was acting with the constraints they thought they had,” O’Mara said after the ruling. “I don’t think that they had free access to that money and I think that was evident by the way that they used it and didn’t use it.”
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.”
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.
O’Mara said he hopes the revocation of bond is “temporary.” “I hope that they will give us a day in court to explain George’s behavior and look at all the circumstances, even the discovery that’s come out to date in determining what he’s going to do about letting him back out on bond,” he said.
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, Fla., 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.
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.
Rachel Fugate, an attorney for the Orlando Sentinel, cited the Casey Anthony trial as an example of a highly publicized case in which a jury was able to be seated despite intense media coverage. The Florida mother was acquitted last year of killing her 2-year-old daughter.
“Discovery in Florida has traditionally been open … and Florida hasn’t encountered problems seating juries and giving defendants fair trials,” Fugate said.
O’Mara said Friday on a website that he doesn’t expect the case to be ready for trial until next year.
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.