By NBC News, msnbc.com and news services
George Zimmerman’s lawyer visited him Saturday in a Florida jail as he prepared for his release on bail, which could occur mid-week.
Attorney Mark O’Mara said it would take several days before Zimmerman is released, as his family has been having trouble putting together enough money for collateral. Zimmerman also must be fitted with an electronic monitoring device and O’Mara must find him a secure location.
On Friday, a judge set bond at $150,000 for Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. In Florida, which has a “Use a gun and you’re done” law, those convicted of second-degree murder are sentenced to 20 years to life.
During Friday’s hearing, Zimmerman surprised witnesses by speaking out for the first time publicly and reaching out to Martin’s parents, who were in the courtroom.
“I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman said. He wore a suit, a gray tie and a chain wrapped around his waist. It appeared he also was wearing a bullet-proof vest beneath his white button-up shirt. “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not.”
As the case made international headlines, supporters of Martin’s family accused Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch guard in his gated community, of racially profiling the teen, who wore a hooded sweatshirt while walking to the home of his father’s fiancee. Zimmerman’s defenders point to the fact that he is half Peruvian as proof that he is not racist and say that Martin attacked Zimmerman.
On Thursday, the night before the bail hearing, Zimmerman asked to speak with Martin’s parents, but they refused, NBC Miami reported.
Benjamin Crump, the Martin family lawyer, said the family found it crass that Zimmerman was reaching out for the first time at his bond hearing. Zimmerman said his lawyers had advised him not to speak publicly.
Legal observers across the country, however, said the bond hearing denoted hallmarks of a savvy defense attorney.
Zimmerman’s lawyer interrogated a state investigator about the probable cause affidavit, which outlines the state’s case against Zimmerman. It was an unlikely move for a bond hearing, but it may have highlighted weaknesses in the state’s case, legal observers told The Associated Press on Friday.
Investigator Dale Gilbreath testified that he does not know whether Martin or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there is no evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s contention he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin. The affidavit says “Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.”
But Gilbreath also said Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was slamming his head against the sidewalk just before he shot the teenager was “not consistent with the evidence we found.” He gave no details.
Lawyers not involved in the case said it was strategically smart because the investigator’s statements could be used later to contradict other testimony or to decide how to question other witnesses.
“I thought it was a really great thing to do,” said Tom Mesereau, a Los Angeles attorney whose clients have included singer Michael Jackson and actor Robert Blake. “He used the hearing to get information that can only help his defense. What was supposed to be strictly a hearing for bail, he used it as a discovery device, and was able to nail the investigator into making very, very pointed statements about the investigation and about what evidence they have.”