Judge weighing whether to give Zimmerman bond
Sanford, Fla. • A judge said Friday he needed to look at evidence before deciding whether to grant George Zimmerman bond following a sort of mini-trial that featured the defense trying to poke holes in the prosecution's case by calling the neighborhood watch leader's father to testify and playing a chilling 911 call from the night Trayvon Martin was fatally shot.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester did not indicate when he might make a decision. He revoked Zimmerman's bond earlier this month when prosecutors told the judge Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had during the April bond hearing.
Prosecutors said a website Zimmerman created for his legal defense had raised $135,000 at the time of his first bond hearing, and Zimmerman and his wife did not mention the money then.
Zimmerman's attorney briefly considered calling his client to the stand, but ultimately decided against it.
Much of the bond hearing focused on the donations raised through a PayPal account and how it was repeatedly transferred between bank accounts Zimmerman and his wife controlled.
"It was done to hide the money so they could deceive the court, lie to the court. Mrs. Zimmerman lied to the court and this defendant just sat there and let it happen," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said.
Zimmerman's attorney attempted to show there was no effort to hide the money from the judge.
"It is not the grand conspiracy the state seems to suggest," attorney Mark O'Mara said.
There was also a great deal of evidence and testimony about the head injuries Zimmerman suffered the night of the fight with Martin, including a broken nose and cuts on his skull. Zimmerman was also described by a probation officer as a "model client" who had not violated any of his previous bond conditions.
At times, the bond hearing had the flavor of a trial or a self-defense hearing, with both sides presenting what sounded like opening statements.
Attorneys for Zimmerman called prosecutors' case weak and said he gave 11 voluntary statements to police and re-enacted the shooting with authorities. O'Mara twice played a chilling 911 call in which someone is repeatedly screaming "help" in the background. A gunshot is also heard on the recording.
George Zimmerman's father took the witness stand and testified that he was certain that it was his son yelling for help on the tape.
Prosecutors argued they had evidence that Zimmerman was the aggressor and chased Martin, who they said acted in self-defense.
But the judge was not ruling on the merits of the case. Instead, the judge was focused on what happened at the previous bond hearing.
Zimmerman's attorney called an expert on finances to testify, attempting to show that Zimmerman and his wife did not try to hide anything.
"All the ends and outs match perfectly," said Adam Magill, a financial forensic specialist.
But Magill also testified that moving the money around from different accounts would "make it appear that you didn't have the money."
Prosecutors also said the couple talked in code during recorded jailhouse conversations about how to transfer the donations to different bank accounts. At one point, George Zimmerman asked how much money they had. She replied "$155." Prosecutors allege that was code for $155,000. Their reference to "Peter Pan" was code for the PayPal system through which the donations were made, prosecutors said.
Shellie Zimmerman has since been charged with perjury. She is out of jail on $1,000 bond and her arraignment is set for July 31.
Zimmerman's defense also played videos of Zimmerman talking and showing his injuries after the shooting. Attorneys then spent time questioning Kevin O'Rourke, a Sanford firefighter and emergency medical technician who responded to the shooting scene. Attorneys asked questions about the extent of Zimmerman's injuries, particularly how much blood was on his head and face.
"A good 45 percent of his head and face were covered with blood," O'Rourke said.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26 at a gated apartment community in Sanford. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and claims the shooting was self-defense under the state's "stand your ground" law.
Martin's parents and supporters claim the teenager was targeted because he was black and Zimmerman started the confrontation that led to the shooting. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
The 44 days between the shooting and Zimmerman's arrest inspired nationwide protests, led to the departure of the Sanford police chief and prompted a U.S. Department of Justice probe.
Zimmerman's attorney has argued in court papers that he is no threat to the public and proved he wasn't a flight risk by returning to jail when his bond was revoked. O'Mara also argued that the bulk of the more than $200,000 raised by the website has now been turned over to a third-party administrator and Zimmerman has no control over the money.