Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

George Zimmerman returns to jail in Trayvon Martin shooting

SANFORD — George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murdering Trayvon Martin, surrendered to jail Sunday and will try again to be released on bail.

Zimmerman, 28, in handcuffs and with longer hair than the last time he was publicly seen, returned to Central Florida from an undisclosed location over the weekend and made arrangements to meet authorities in a parking lot near the jail to turn himself in.

He was booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford about 45 minutes before the court-ordered deadline of 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Zimmerman arrived in an unmarked sheriff's minivan and did not respond to reporters' questions as he was escorted inside the building.

"He's solemn. He's worried," his defense attorney, Mark O'Mara said in a Sunday afternoon news conference. "He's worried about himself. He's worried about his wife. He's worried about his family."

Six weeks after Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the 17-year-old's shooting, was released after posting $15,000 in cash toward a $150,000 bail, prosecutors asserted that he and his wife had intentionally misled the court about his finances.

On Friday, a judge agreed — revoking Zimmerman's bail and giving him 48 hours to surrender.

In his strongly worded order, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, were not honest about how much money they had.

"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 at the hearing Friday. "He can't sit back and obtain the benefit of a lower bond based upon those material falsehoods."

During a hearing in April, the couple indicated they had only limited funds.

But prosecutors said Zimmerman raised tens of thousands of dollars — at least $135,000 — through a website he had set up for his legal defense.

Further, prosecutors said, they had a recorded jailhouse phone call where the Zimmermans discussed the money "in code to hide what they were doing."

On Sunday, O'Mara said Zimmerman would need to "rehabilitate" his trustworthiness with the court.

"There is a credibility question that needs to be explained away," O'Mara said.

O'Mara said he would file a motion, probably by today, seeking a new hearing to set bail.

But it is not certain the judge would grant such a hearing.

"It will depend on the motion itself," O'Mara said.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty in Martin's death in February. He maintains he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law because the teen, who was unarmed, was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.

O'Mara said he hopes Zimmerman's voluntary surrender will show he is not a flight risk. Furthermore, the money Zimmerman has raised for his defense fund is in an independent trust and cannot be directly accessed by Zimmerman or his attorneys, according to O'Mara.

Still, Zimmerman's credibility could become an issue at trial, legal experts said, noting the case hinges on jurors believing Zimmerman's account of what happened the night in February that Martin was killed.

Witness accounts of the rainy night that Martin was shot are spotty. There is no video of the fight, though photos released later by prosecutors show Zimmerman with wounds to his face and the back of his head.

Zimmerman wasn't charged in the case for 44 days after the shooting. The state's "stand your ground" law 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 whether race was a factor in Zimmerman's actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.

Gov. Rick Scott appointed a special prosecutor, who filed the charge.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, has repeatedly said his clients have always believed Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office said Zimmerman would be in a cell by himself, separated from the general population, because the case is so high-profile.

The 67-square-foot cell, designed for two inmates, is equipped with a toilet, two beds, a mattress, pillow, blanket and bedsheets.

Zimmerman will not be permitted to use or possess tobacco products and will not have a television, the Sheriff's Office said. He is allowed access to books and magazines.

Jail records show he has $500 in his commissary account.

The Associated Press, Orlando Sentinel and Miami Herald contributed to this report.

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Published: 01/20/18