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Lawyers: Zimmerman in police custody
Question of the Day
MIAMI (AP) — The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, said Sunday that Mr. Zimmerman is in police custody in Florida.
Mr. Zimmerman‘s legal team said in a tweet that he was in police custody, two days after a judge ordered him back to jail. Mr. Zimmerman‘s bail was revoked because the judge said Mr. Zimmerman and his wife lied to the court about their finances so he could obtain a lower bond.
On Sunday afternoon, about 40 minutes before the 2:30 p.m. deadline to surrender, Mr. Zimmerman was listed as an inmate on the website of the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Fla.. He was listed as being held without bail and having $500 in his jail account.
Lawyer Mark O'Mara earlier Sunday announced Mr. Zimmerman‘s return to the area on his website, saying Mr. Zimmerman arrived late Saturday evening. The press release on the website said the deadline for his surrender was 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
The judge revoked Mr. Zimmerman‘s bond, suggesting he and his wife had not been honest about their finances. During a bond hearing in April, the couple indicated they had limited funds, but prosecutors say Mr. Zimmerman had raised thousands through a website he had set up for his legal defense.
Mr. Zimmerman‘s legal team said Sunday that they will ask for a new bond hearing to address those concerns and that they hope Mr. Zimmerman‘s voluntary surrender will show he is not a flight risk. Furthermore, the money Mr. Zimmerman has raised is in an independent trust and cannot be directly accessed by Mr. Zimmerman or his attorneys, according to the press release.
Mr. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge. He maintains he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law because the teen, who was unarmed, was beating him up after confronting Mr. Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.
Mr. Zimmerman‘s credibility could become an issue at trial, legal experts said, noting the case hinges on jurors believing Mr. Zimmerman‘s account of what happened the night in February that Martin was killed.
Mr. Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting. Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about whether race was a factor in Mr. Zimmerman‘s actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Mr. Zimmerman’s father is white, and his mother is from Peru.
Police in Sanford did not immediately arrest Mr. Zimmerman, citing the Florida law that 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.
The questioning of Mr. Zimmerman‘s truthfulness by the judge on Friday could undermine the defendant’s credibility if it is brought up at trial. It also may complicate how his defense presents him as a witness, said Orlando-area attorney Randy McClean, a former prosecutor.
“The other key witness, unfortunately, is deceased,” Mr. McClean said. “Basically, Zimmerman is going to be asking the jury to believe his version of the facts. … As the case stands now, his credibility is absolutely critical to the case.”
Mr. Zimmerman went into hiding in the weeks after the shooting, and his exact whereabouts since he bonded out of jail remain unclear.
Witness accounts of the rainy night that Martin was shot are spotty. There is no video of the fight, though photos released by prosecutors show Mr. Zimmerman with wounds to his face and the back of his head.
“If he was in on something that was not truthfully revealed to the judge, when there is a ‘stand your ground’ hearing, of course you’re going to second-guess him,” Mr. Hill said.
Both Mr. McClean and Mr. Hill said Mr. O'Mara would be able to challenge the admissibility of the bond revocation at trial by questioning its relevance.
Mr. Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing, and during a bond hearing in April, his wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds available. Mr. Zimmerman took the stand at the hearing and apologized to Martin’s parents.
Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Mr. Zimmerman had $135,000 available then. It had been raised from donations through a website he had set up. They suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.
Mrs. Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn’t know how much money had been raised. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set bail at $150,000. The 28-year-old was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash — which is typical.
Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda complained Friday: “This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny. It was misleading, and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.” The judge agreed and ordered Mr. Zimmerman returned to jail by Sunday afternoon.
The defense countered that Mr. Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything, which indicated “there was no deceit.”
The judge said he would schedule a hearing after Mr. Zimmerman is back in custody so he could explain himself.
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients always have said Mr. Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial.
Kyle Hightower and Mike Schneider reported from Sanford, Fla.
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