George Zimmerman, the man charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, took the stand at his own bond hearing and apologized directly to Martin's parents as the judge set the bond at $150,000.
"I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son," Zimmerman said while on the stand. "I did not know how old he was, I thought he was a little bit younger than I am, and I did not know if he was armed or not."
Zimmerman was then questioned by the prosecutor about whether or not, during the investigation, he had expressed that remorse for shooting Martin.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set several conditions Friday for Zimmerman's release. He cannot have any firearms, drink alcohol or use drugs and must observe a curfew. The judge says details need to be worked out between Zimmerman's attorney and law enforcement, and that Zimmerman will not be released Friday.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Martin in central Florida. He claims self-defense.
His parents and wife testified to the judge to let him out of jail claiming he is neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community.
He is absolutely not a violent person.
- Shellie Zimmerman, George Zimmerman's Wife
Zimmerman's family members were testifying by phone because they say they have been threatened.
Zimmerman was at the hearing at Seminole County Criminal Justice Center wearing a suit but in shackles. Martin's parents are also present.
"He is absolutely not a violent person," his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, testified.
Zimmerman's father, George Zimmerman Sr., said that even when confronted his son was likely to "turn the other cheek." The father also described what he said were his son's injuries Feb. 27, the morning after Martin was shot and killed.
"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," the elder 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.
Zimmerman's mother 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,'" she said.
But assistant 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.
Zimmerman asked to meet with Trayvon Martin's parents before the hearing, but the family's lawyers said this was not the time.
"We believe (the) Zimmerman request is very self-serving, considering the timing of it 50 days later, right before his bond hearing," said Justin R. Campbell — an assistant to attorney Benjamin Crump — in an emailed statement late Thursday.
Legal experts say factors that favored Zimmerman getting bond included his ties to the local community and that he doesn't appear to be a flight risk since he turned himself in voluntarily after second-degree murder charges were filed against him last week. He also has never been convicted of a crime, which would indicate he doesn't pose a threat to society.
"Although it's not routine for people charged with murder to get bond, they do get bond, and I think there is an excellent argument to be made in his specific case for him to be released on bond," said defense attorney Randy McClean, who practices in Seminole County, about 15 miles northeast of Orlando.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara indicated before the hearing he would ask that Zimmerman be allowed to leave the area, if he is granted bond, because of concerns about his safety. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester was assigned the case Wednesday after a previous judge recused herself because of a potential conflict of interest.
"Normally, the conditions are that you stay local. I think that is going to be difficult," O'Mara said in an interview. "I think nobody would deny the fact that if George Zimmerman were walking down the street today, he would be at risk. That is a reality."
O'Mara has said he would prefer that Zimmerman be released so he can assist in building a defense case.
The judge would have discretion to allow Zimmerman to live elsewhere along with a number of restrictions such as a curfew, regular reporting requirements and possibly an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, said Florida International University law professor Joelle Moreno.
O'Mara said he would ask for assistance from law enforcement. Kim Cannaday, a spokeswoman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, said she couldn't comment on what security procedures would be in place for Zimmerman upon his release. The sheriff's office does have the ability to monitor defendants outside the county if a judge requests a GPS monitor be used as a condition of release.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the 17-year-old Martin's death during a Feb. 26 confrontation in a Sanford, Fla., gated community. Martin was walking home from a convenience store when Zimmerman spotted him from his truck and called police to report him as suspicious. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which eliminates a person's duty to retreat under threat of death or serious injury.
The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protests nationwide, several in Seminole County, 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.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.