Ahead of his second-degree murder trial and in the midst of a case that has the American public divided, George Zimmerman has been release on $150,000 bail from a Florida county jail.
Wearing blue jeans, a brown jacket and with a paper bag in hand, the alleged killer of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin avoided looking directly at any of the waiting press and photographers gathered outside the jail. He promptly entered a BMW with another unnamed man and was driven away to an unknown location.
Just moments before, sheriff’s cars were used to block access to the buildings entrances in order to prevent the ensuing chaos such high-profile cases attract.
Zimmerman offered no statement and no questions were thrown at him by the press.
His current whereabouts are being kept confidential in order to ensure his safety, though are thought to be outside the state.
At Zimmerman’s bail hearing on Friday, court judges imposed a 7pm to 6am curfew on the defendant and asked him to surrender his passport. He has also been disqualified from carrying guns for the duration of his bail.
In order to cover the $15,000 10% bail costs, Zimmerman’s father suggested that he might have to take out a second mortgage on the family home. Having admitted to possessing insufficient income to cover what he called a fair case, Zimmerman opened up a website to collect charity donations for his defense case – the total proceeds of which remain unknown.
The granting of bail in second degree murder cases may be rare, but is certainly not unheard of and in this instance has been expected all along by most legal parties. Zimmerman’s close ties with the community along with the fact that he turned himself in and has thus far cooperated led to predictions that bail would be granted.
Prosecuting parties initially demanded that bail be set at $1 million, asking that two previous incidents were brought into question where Zimmerman has close scrapes with the law, though wasn’t formally charged. In 2005, accusations that Zimmerman attacked a plain-clothes police officer led to an order to take anger management classes, while an ex-girlfriend of Zimmerman once accused him of a violent attack.
On February 26, Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin close to his home in a gated Florida community. At the time, Martin was walking home when he was spotted by Martin who claims the teenager was acting suspiciously. Zimmerman then claims to have called the police, followed Martin and summarily ended up in a life or death fight with the teenager – a fight that would result in the fatal shooting of Martin.
Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the details of the altercation and which party started it.
Zimmerman is relying on Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which allows deadly forced to be used in order to protect oneself against serious bodily harm or death. He claims that Martin punched him to the ground before repeatedly smashing his head on the concrete, making the shooting a legal act of self-defense.