SANFORD (CBSMiami/AP) — All eyes are back on Sanford, Florida where the neighborhood watch captain accused of shooting Miami teen Trayvon Martin has been ordered back to jail.
On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester found out that Zimmerman and his wife lied about their finances to obtain a lower bail in a case that hinges on jurors believing his account of what happened the night the teen was killed.
Judge Lester ordered him to surrender within 48 hours which means he has to be back in jail by Sunday afternoon.
Zimmerman’s credibility will be a huge issue at trial because he’ll be depending on jurors to believe him when he says he killed the unarmed teen in self-defense.
Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting, and said he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground” law which gives wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if people believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured.
Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about race. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder for the February shooting. The neighborhood watch volunteer says he shot Martin in self-defense because the unarmed 17-year-old was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.
Witness accounts of the rainy night Martin was shot are spotty. There is no video of the fight, though photos prosecutors have released showed Zimmerman with wounds to his face and the back of his head.
Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing, and during a bond hearing in April, his wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds available. The hearing also was notable because Zimmerman took the stand and apologized to Martin’s parents.
Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Zimmerman had $135,000 available then. It had been raised from donations through a website he set up, and they suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.
Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn’t know how much money had been raised. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set bail at $150,000. The 28-year-old was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash — which is typical — and has since been in hiding.
Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda complained Friday, “This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny. It was misleading and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.” The judge agreed and ordered Zimmerman returned to jail by Sunday afternoon.
“Does your client get to sit there like a potted plant and lead the court down the primrose path? That’s the issue,” Lester said. “He can’t sit back and obtain the benefit of a lower bond based upon those material falsehoods.”
The defense countered that Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything, which indicated “there was no deceit.” His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said it wouldn’t be a problem to bring Zimmerman back into custody by the deadline.
The judge said he would schedule a hearing after Zimmerman is back in custody so he could explain himself.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients have always said Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial, which O’Mara said he believed wouldn’t be until next year.
Crump was asked if he thought that if Zimmerman would be willing to lie about his finances that he would be willing to lie about what happen the night Martin was killed.
“We fully expect that the special prosecutor will make George Zimmerman’s credibility be front and center in this entire case,” Crump said. “And whatever dishonesty that comes forth by George Zimmerman that they can prove, you can best believe it will become the issue of this case.”
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