George Zimmerman's wife and parents testified at abond hearing claiming the man accused of murderingTrayvon Martin is not violent or a flight risk.The family testified via phone due to threats theyhave received.
The family of a neighborhood watch volunteercharged with killing Trayvon Martin asked aFlorida judge Friday to let him out of jail whilehe awaits trial, and legal experts said he standsa good chance of being granted bail.
Zimmerman was at the hearing wearing a suit but inshackles. Martin's parents are also present.
"He is absolutely not a violent person," his wife,Shellie Zimmerman, testified.
Zimmerman's father, George Zimmerman Sr., saidthat even when confronted his son was likely to"turn the other cheek." The father also describedwhat he said were his son's injuries Feb. 27, themorning after Martin was shot and killed.
"His face was swollen quite a bit. He had aprotective cover over his nose. His lip wasswollen and cut. And there were two verticalgashes on the back of his head," the elderZimmerman testified.
Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, said her son was "veryprotective" of vulnerable people such as thehomeless and children. She described how he gotinvolved in a mentoring program for children inOrlando, noting that both of the children hementored were African-American like Martin.
Mrs. Zimmerman said she was concerned about herson's safety in that program because he traveledtwice a month to a dangerous neighborhood.
"He said, 'Mom, if I don't go, they don't havenobody,'" Mrs. Zimmerman said.
But assistant prosecutor Bernardo de la Riondaasked the family members about two incidents. In2005, George Zimmerman had to take angermanagement courses after an undercover lawenforcement officer accused him of attacking himas he tried to arrest Zimmerman's friend. Inanother incident, a girlfriend accused Zimmermanof attacking her. No charges were filed.
Zimmerman asked to meet with Trayvon Martin'sparents before the hearing, but the family'slawyers said this was not the time.
"We believe (the) Zimmerman request is very self-serving, considering the timing of it 50 dayslater, right before his bond hearing," said JustinR. Campbell -- an assistant to attorney BenjaminCrump -- in an emailed statement late Thursday.
Legal experts say factors that favor Zimmermangetting bail include his ties to the localcommunity and that he doesn't appear to be aflight risk since he turned himself in voluntarilyafter second-degree murder charges were filedagainst him last week. He also has never beenconvicted of a crime, which would indicate hedoesn't pose a threat to society.
"Although it's not routine for people charged withmurder to get bond, they do get bond, and I thinkthere is an excellent argument to be made in hisspecific case for him to be released on bond,"said defense attorney Randy McClean, who practicesin Seminole County, about 15 miles northeast ofOrlando.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara indicated before thehearing he would ask that Zimmerman be allowed toleave the area, if he is granted bond, because ofconcerns about his safety. Circuit Judge KennethLester was assigned the case Wednesday after aprevious judge recused herself because of apotential conflict of interest.
"Normally, the conditions are that you stay local.I think that is going to be difficult," O'Marasaid in an interview. "I think nobody would denythe fact that if George Zimmerman were walkingdown the street today, he would be at risk. Thatis a reality."
O'Mara has said he would prefer that Zimmerman bereleased so he can assist in building a defensecase.
The judge would have discretion to allow Zimmermanto live elsewhere along with a number ofrestrictions such as a curfew, regular reportingrequirements and possibly an electronic monitoringankle bracelet, said Florida InternationalUniversity law professor Joelle Moreno.
O'Mara said he would ask for assistance from lawenforcement. Kim Cannaday, a spokeswoman for theSeminole County Sheriff's Office, said shecouldn't comment on what security procedures wouldbe in place for Zimmerman if he is released. Thesheriff's office does have the ability to monitordefendants outside the county if a judge requestsa GPS monitor be used as a condition of release.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder inthe 17-year-old Martin's death during a Feb. 26confrontation in a Sanford, Fla., gated community.Martin was walking home from a convenience storewhen Zimmerman spotted him from his truck andcalled police to report him as suspicious.Zimmerman has claimed self-defense under Florida's"stand your ground" law, which eliminates aperson's duty to retreat under threat of death orserious injury.
The lack of an arrest for 44 days spurred protestsnationwide, several in Seminole County, in whichparticipants chanted and held signs that said,"Arrest Zimmerman Now!" Anger over a delay inZimmerman's arrest led to the Sanford police chiefstepping down temporarily and the recusal of theprosecutor who normally handles cases out ofSanford.