SANFORD, Fla. – A routine bail hearing for George Zimmerman took a surprising turn into remorse and explanation Friday when the neighborhood watch volunteer got on the witness stand and told Trayvon Martin’s parents: “I am sorry for the loss of your son.
“I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not,” Zimmerman said, marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed black 17-year-old.
The hearing wrapped up with a judge ruling Zimmerman can be released from jail on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on second-degree murder charges. Zimmerman, who has been in jail for more than a week, could be out within days and may be allowed to live outside Florida for his own safety once arrangements are made to monitor him electronically.
Defendants often testify about their financial assets at bail hearings, but it is highly unusual for them to address the charges, and rarer still to apologize.
An attorney for Martin’s parents, who were in the courtroom when Zimmerman spoke, spurned the apology. The parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, had no comment as they left.
“This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I’ve seen,” said attorney Natalie Jackson. “This was the most unmeaningful apology.”
In agreeing to let Zimmerman out on bail, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.
Zimmerman will need to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said he expects the family to come up with the amount. Zimmerman’s father has indicated he may take out a second mortgage.
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, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.