Zimmerman Must Surrender; Bond Revoked

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  • SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — A judge has revoked the bond of the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ordered him returned to jail within 48 hours.

    Prosecutors said in a motion that 28-year-old George Zimmerman and his family misled them about his finances when testifying during a bail hearing that allowed him to be released from jail on a $150,000 bond. Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda asked for the revocation during a hearing to help determine if prosecutors and the defense can stop the public release of certain documents in the case.

    During the bond hearing in April, Zimmerman's relatives testified they had limited funds. Zimmerman's attorney said several days later that he had discovered his client had raised more than $200,000 from a website. At the time of the hearing, about $135,000 had been raised, and that money wasn't disclosed at the bond hearing.

    "This court was led to believe they didn't have a single penny," said Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda. "It was misleading and I don't know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie."

    Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said it was an innocent misunderstanding and that Zimmerman wasn't using that money for his expenses and wasn't sure what he could use the money for. He said Zimmerman used the houses of his parents and grandmother as collateral for the bond.

    Prosecutors also said in the motion that Zimmerman didn't disclose he had a second passport. Zimmerman turned his passport over to the court at the bond hearing as a measure that would prevent him from fleeing the country.

    Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder and claims self-defense. Zimmerman shot Martin last February during a confrontation at a gated community of townhouses in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman lived and where Martin was visiting his father's fiancee.

    The delay in an arrest for 44 days prompted protests nationwide and led to Sanford's police chief stepping aside so emotions could cool down.

    At Friday's hearing, De la Rionda and O'Mara also asked a judge to stop the public release of witness names and statements made by Zimmerman to police officers. Those documents normally are part of the public record under Florida law.

    "What's occurring, unfortunately, are cases are being tried in the public sector as opposed to in the courtroom," De La Rionda told Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester. "We are in a new age with Twitter, Facebook, and all these things I've never heard of before in my career. Everybody gets to find out intimate details about witnesses that never occurred before. Witnesses are going to be reluctant to get involved."

    A consortium of more than a dozen media groups, including The Associated Press, asked the judge to ignore the request, saying such records are presumed to be publicly available under Florida law.

    Rachel Fugate, an attorney for the Orlando Sentinel, cited the Casey Anthony trial as an example of a highly publicized case in which a jury was able to be seated despite intense media coverage. The Florida mother was acquitted last year of killing her 2-year-old daughter.

    "Discovery in Florida has traditionally been open … and Florida hasn't encountered problems seating juries and giving defendants fair trials," Fugate said.

    O'Mara said Friday on a website that he doesn't expect the case to be ready for trial until next year.

    O'Mara said he expects to call on 50 witnesses who need to be deposed before he decides whether to file a "stand your ground" motion which would ask for a hearing before a judge without a jury. At the hearing, Zimmerman would argue self-defense under the Florida law which 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.

     

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