SANFORD (AP) — George Zimmerman was released from a Florida jail on $150,000 bail late Sunday as he awaits his second-degree murder trial in the shooting of unarmed Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin.
His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety and it could be outside the state.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester, who granted bail Friday said Zimmerman must wear a tracking device, not have any guns and observe a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport. He must appear before the judge again on May 8 for his arraignment.
Zimmerman had to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. His father had indicated he might take out a second mortgage. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense fund. It is unclear how much has been raised.
He is wearing a sensitive GPS device that pinpoints his location for authorities and will alert them if he drifts even a few feet away from where he is allowed to be. He must pay an $8 a day fee for the device which is generally used to track people charged in domestic violence cases.
Seminole County Sheriff's officials are offering few details on how he will be specifically monitored, other than to say the device he is wearing has the same 24/7 capabilities.
The monitoring program has been in use since 2003 in Seminole and provides “real-time monitoring of an offender's movements and is capable of monitoring anywhere in the U.S.,” according to a sheriff's office news release.
During the bond hearing Friday, Zimmerman made a surprise appearance on the witness stand to speak publicly on the case for the first time. “I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said apparently addressing Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who were in the courtroom. “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.”
Zimmerman said he told police he felt sorry for the parents. He also said he
didn't say anything to them sooner because his former attorneys told him not to.
The parents had no comment as they left the courtroom. Their attorneys spurned the apology.
“This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I've seen,” said attorney Natalie Jackson. “This was the most unmeaningful apology.”
The apology came after Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, quest-
ioned an investigator for the special prosecutor sentence by sentence about a probable cause affidavit the investigator signed outlining certain facts in the case.
Investigator Dale Gil-breath testified that he did not know whether Trayvon or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there was no evidence to disprove Zimmerman's contention that he was walking back to his vehicle when Trayvon confronted him. The affidavit says “Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.”
But Gilbreath also said Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon 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.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda dismissed any notion that the investigator's testimony chipped away at their case.
“You have not heard all of the evidence,” de la Rionda said after the hearing. “Please be patient and wait for the trial.”
In related news, the Sanford city commission, which had passed a resolution of no confidence in Police Chief Bill Lee, rejected his resignation on a 3-2
vote Monday. Lee temporarily stepped down as police chief on March 22, saying he wanted to let tensions cool.
Meanwhile, a panel on Saturday discussed issues arising out of the killing in a forum organized by the South Florida Black Journalists Association (SFBJA) on the theme “Trayvon Martin, the Stand Your Ground, Media and Race.”
The session at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, drew about 20 people.
The case is “a perfect storm in that it bundles so many stories in one package that obviously is not neat. It’s tragic,” said Sun-Sentinel Metro columnist Michael Mayo. “You have race relations, the ways people are treated, the profiling aspect and simmering resentment within the black community — and you have someone who’s not even a cop but a wanabe cop doing the profiling,” he said.
Florida has its own gun culture, Mayo said, adding, “Everybody has a gun and now they have all these new rights to be able to use it legally through the ‘stand your ground’ law. All these things come together (in this story).”
Tsitsi Wakhisi, University of Miami associate professor of professional practice in journalism and a South Florida Times writer, said it was very possible that if Trayvon’s parents had not been so active in their demand for justice the story would have slipped under the radar.
“That’s why this (case) is important,” Wakhisi said. “People are at that point where they are saying, ‘This is the case. We have all these things happen to us, but not this time.’”
SFBJA president and panel moderator Terrance Shepherd said he feels Zimmerman will go free either at trial or through the “stand your ground” defense.
State Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami, and attorney Lorna Owens criticized the law. Watson said it “leaves too many things to question, too much room for people to insert their own opinions.”
Watson said the measure must be “straightened out” in the Legislature.
Cynthia Roby and South Florida Times staff contributed to this report.
Photo: Trayvon Martin