April 23, 2012
In a low-key event, George Zimmerman was released from a Florida jail on $150,000 bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial in the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
The neighborhood watch volunteer was wearing a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag as he walked out of the jail around midnight Sunday. He was following another man and didn't look over at photographers gathered outside. The two then got into a white BMW car and drove away.
No questions were shouted at Zimmerman from members of the news media at the scene, and he gave no statement.
His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety and it could be outside Florida.
As with the July 2011 release of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman acquitted of murder in the death of her young daughter, Zimmerman was released around midnight. But the similarities end there. Anthony was quickly whisked away by deputy sheriffs armed with rifles as angry protesters jeered her. While news helicopters briefly tracked her SUV through Orlando before she slipped from public view, there was no such pursuit of Zimmerman, who will have to return for trial.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said at a hearing Friday that Zimmerman cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.
Zimmerman had to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. His father had indicated he might take out a second mortgage.
Zimmerman worked at a mortgage risk-management company at the time of the shooting and his wife is in nursing school. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman's defense fund. It is unclear how much has been raised.
Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.
Prosecutors had asked for $1 million bail, citing two previous scrapes Zimmerman had with the law, neither of which resulted in charges. In 2005, he had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest Zimmerman's friend. In another incident, a girlfriend accused him of attacking her.
Zimmerman, 28, fatally shot Martin, 17, during an altercation on Feb. 26 inside the gated community where Zimmerman lived. Martin was unarmed and was walking back to the home of his father's fiancée when Zimmerman saw him, called 911 and began following him. A fight broke out — investigators say it is unknown who started it.
Zimmerman says Martin, who was visiting from Miami, attacked him. Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives broad legal protection to anyone who says they used deadly force because they feared death or great bodily harm.
Zimmerman was not charged for over six weeks, sparking national protests led by Martin's parents, civil rights groups and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is from Peru.
Earlier Sunday, Zimmerman's attorney was working to secure the money for bail and a safe place for Zimmerman to stay. But residents in Sanford, where Martin was killed, didn't expect a ruckus once Zimmerman was released.