SANFORD (CBSMiami) – In a surprise move, George Zimmerman took the witness stand at his bond reduction hearing Friday morning and made a brief statement directed at the parents of Trayvon Martin, saying he was sorry for the loss of their son. Minutes later, a judge set a bond of $150,000 for Zimmerman, setting the stage for his release from jail.
Attorney Mark O’Mara said Zimmerman wanted to make a brief statement, and after he was sworn in, Zimmerman was led to the witness box in shackles.
“I wanted to say that I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said, addressing Martin’s father and mother, who were present in the courtroom. “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 had previously said, in the call to police just minutes before the February shooting, that he thought Trayvon was in his “late teens.”
Prosecutor Bernie Delario challenged the statement, which he had believed would be made to the judge, not Trayvon’s parents.
“That’s really addressed to the family and the media, is that correct, Mr. Zimmerman?
“No, to the mother and the father,” Zimmerman said.
“Did you ever make that statement to the police, sir, that you were sorry about what you’d done or their loss?” asked Delario. Zimmerman replied, “No sir.”
Delario asked, “Why did you wait so long to tell Mr. Martin and the victim’s mother, why did you wait so long to tell them?”
Zimmerman said, “I was told not to communicate with them.”
The brief statement, delivered under oath, was the first time Zimmerman had publicly addressed the shooting. He had asked earlier for a chance to meet with Martin’s parents, a request rejected by the family attorney, so Friday’s statement apparently took the place of that meeting.
Shortly after making that statement, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester agreed to set a bond of $150,000 for Zimmerman, with a host of conditions. Zimmerman may have no contact with the family of Trayvon Martin or with any witnesses in the case, must observe a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, can’t drink or use any drug not prescribed by a doctor, and isn’t able to handle a firearm.
Zimmerman must also work with the state to determine under what conditions he might leave the state for his own safety.
The court also decided Zimmerman would not be released Friday. Attorney O”Mara said arrangements must be made, including with a bail bondsman, and said release could be “a several-days process.”
Earlier in the day, Zimmerman’s wife, father, and mother testified by telephone Friday morning as Zimmerman’s lawyer tried to convince a judge to release his client from jail. His wife said Zimmerman is not a danger to the community, and revealed she had received threats about her husband.
In a packed Sanford courtroom, Zimmerman, dressed in a grey suit, watched as his family members testified by telephone, an arrangement Judge Lester approved for their safety.
Shellie Zimmerman, a full time student who has been married to Zimmerman for five years, said she believes her husband should be allowed out of jail. She promised she would do “everything in her power” to make sure her husband appeared at court proceedings and the trial, and also promised to inform the court if she ever lost contact with him.
She also promised to meet any condition the court set for his release.
Shellie Zimmerman revealed she had received threats and hate mail after her husband shot and killed Trayvon Martin in a confrontation at a gated community last February.
She told her prosecutor Delario that she had received hate mail that she did not report to police or prosecutors, that she was worried for here safety and for her husband’s.
Zimmerman’s father, Robert, also testified by telephone, and told the court his son is honest and had never given him reason to doubt his word.
Gladys Zimmerman, his mother, talked about his car for other people. She said her son was a protector of others, of the homeless and children, and described how he had mentored a young black child.
The three Zimmermans were the only outside witnesses called by attorney O’Mara.
The first witness who appeared in person was Dale Gilbreath, an investigator for the State Attorney’s Office who was one of the people who helped create the probable cause document used to support the charge of Second Degree murder Zimmerman faces.
Attorney O’Mara went through the affidavit point by point, asking Gilbreath to justified, with facts, why certain items were included. For example, the affidavit included the term ‘profiled’ when describing Zimmerman’s initial encounter with Trayvon. O”Mara asked why that word was chosen as opposed to another term.
He also questioned the use of the word “confronted”, as in the statement “Zimmerman confronted Martin.”
Gilbreath responded, “I could have used 30 words.”
Prosecutor Delario took his own walk through the probable cause affidavit, citing basic statements and points of the state’s case and asking Gilbreath if those statements were true.
“He was minding his own business and it was Mr. Zimmerman who approached Mr. Martin,” Delario asked Gilbreath to confirm, drawing a sharp objection from O’Mara, who claimed that was a fact not en evidence, or in other words, something still unproven. The judge agreed.
The original judge assigned to the case, Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, disqualified herself on Wednesday citing a conflict of interest. Recksiedler’s husband, who is an attorney, is a partner in the firm of Mark Nejame which has contracted by CNN to do analysis of the Zimmerman trial.
NeJame was originally approached by Zimmerman to be his attorney. Zimmerman eventually chose Mark O’Mara as his attorney.
That opened the door for Judge Lester.
The court hearing comes just hours after ABC News released a photograph purporting to be the back of Zimmerman’s head just minutes after the attack.
Click here to see the picture. (Warning: Graphic Content)
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second degree murder. Zimmerman has said that he shot the teen in self defense, according to Sanford police. Initially they did not charge him citing the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground.’
This sparked out and protests across the country. Last week special prosecutor Angela Corey had Zimmerman arrested and charged after a review of the police investigation.