Zimmerman apologizes for shooting; gets $150K bail

Sybrina Fulton, left, mother of Trayvon Martin and attorney Benjamin Crump, arrive at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center Friday for a bond hearing for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murdering Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

Sybrina Fulton, left, mother of Trayvon Martin and attorney Benjamin Crump, arrive at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center Friday for a bond hearing for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murdering Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A routine bail hearing for George Zimmerman took a surprising turn into remorse and explanation Friday when the neighborhood watch volunteer got on the witness stand and told Trayvon Martin’s parents: “I am sorry for the loss of your son.”

“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, marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed black 17-year-old.

The hearing wrapped up with a judge ruling Zimmerman can be released from jail on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on second-degree murder charges. He could be out within days and may be allowed to live outside Florida for his own safety once arrangements are made to monitor him electronically.

Defendants often testify about their financial assets at bail hearings, but it is highly unusual for them to address the charges, and rarer still to apologize.

An attorney for Martin’s parents, who were in the courtroom when Zimmerman spoke, spurned the apology. The parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, had no comment as they left.

“This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I’ve seen,” said attorney Natalie Jackson. “This was the most unmeaningful apology.”

In a measure of how volatile the case has become, Zimmerman appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest under his suit and tie, and his parents and wife testified via telephone because of fears for their safety.

After the hearing, Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, acknowledged that putting Zimmerman on the stand was risky but said his client wanted to respond after Martin’s mother said in an interview that she would like to hear from him.

“He had always wanted to acknowledge what happened that day,” O’Mara said. “I was hoping that it could be accomplished in a private way. We weren’t afforded that opportunity.”

In agreeing to let Zimmerman out on bail, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.

Zimmerman will need to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. O’Mara said he expects the family to come up with the amount. Zimmerman’s father has indicated he may take out a second mortgage.

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