Bail set at $150,000 in Trayvon Martin shooting

Associated Press + More

By CURT ANDERSON and MIKE SCHNEIDER, Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Telling Trayvon Martin's parents and a national TV audience "I am sorry for the loss of your son," neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman took the witness stand in an extraordinary move Friday during his bail hearing, making his first public comments since fatally shooting the unarmed teenager.

A judge set Zimmerman's bail at $150,000 and his attorney said he could be free in several days. Authorities and attorneys need to work out arrangements to allow Zimmerman to live outside Florida as he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge because of threats made against him and his family.

Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him after he started following the teenager Feb. 26 because he thought the 17-year-old Martin looked suspicious walking around the gated neighborhood. Zimmerman has said he was punched in the nose and his head was slammed against the sidewalk.

Wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt and gray tie — but also shackled and appearing to have on a bulletproof vest — Zimmerman took the witness stand to deliver a short statement to Martin's parents, who were in court.

"I wanted to say 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.

Attorneys for Martin's parents said the apology was disappointing.

"This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I've seen," said Natalie Jackson, one of the attorneys for Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. "This was the most unmeaningful apology."

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set several conditions for Zimmerman's release, which he said would not occur Friday. He did not say exactly when Zimmerman could go free.

Zimmerman cannot have any guns, 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.

The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protests nationwide 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, which is in central Florida.

Civil rights leaders said if the black teenager had been white, Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged the night of the shooting. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic of Peruvian descent.

Earlier, Zimmerman's parents and wife testified by phone at the hearing because of worries about their safety. They said he was not a flight risk or a threat to the community.

"He is absolutely not a violent person," his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, testified.

Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., said that even when confronted his son was likely to "turn the other cheek." The father also described his son's injuries the morning after Martin was shot.

"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," Robert Zimmerman testified.

Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, said her son was "very protective" of vulnerable people such as the homeless and children. She described how he got involved in a mentoring program for children in Orlando, noting that both of the children he mentored were African-American like Martin.

Gladys Zimmerman said she was concerned about her son's safety in that program because he traveled twice a month to a dangerous neighborhood.

"He said, 'Mom, if I don't go, they don't have nobody,'" Gladys Zimmerman said.

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.