On Sunday, with a 48-hour deadline approaching, George Zimmerman, killer of Trayvon Martin, surrendered to police and returned to jail after having his bail revoked last Friday by a Florida judge—for, allegedly lying to the court about his financial situation during his April bail hearing.
Mr. Zimmerman’s upcoming murder trial will surely open the racial Pandora’s Box that this country can ill afford to ignore. But one question that should be asked—especially, in light of the fact that Zimmerman was given bail—is: to what extent does racial, and or, class bias decide who obtains bail?
Zimmerman handed himself in at 1:25 p.m. on Sunday; Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. had ordered him to surrender within 48 hours. Judge Lester revoked the $150,000 bond after prosecutors protested that Zimmerman and his wife had misled the court about his financial status in an attempt to receive lower bail. “The defendant’s wife lied to this court,” prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda said. The prosecutor added: “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.”
Zimmerman’s wife was asked in April about the finances of a website launched to support her neighborhood watch volunteer husband—whose shooting death of unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an African American, sparked national controversy. Mr. Zimmerman is currently charged with the second-degree murder of Mr. Martin and faces a 25-year-to-life sentence.
During the bond hearing, Mrs. Zimmerman said she didn’t know how much money was being raised by the website. However, prosecutors say there is variance between her testimony and a recorded conversation made between the couple while Mr. Zimmerman was still in custody. The call was, apparently, made at some point during Zimmerman’s 11-day stay at the Seminole County Jail, after his April arrest. During the call, according to prosecutors, Mr. Zimmerman—using coded language—told his wife to divert donated funds into her personal bank account.
Reportedly, Mr. Zimmerman received around $200,000 from supporters on the website—although, some on his defense team claimed he was practically penniless. Bail was originally set at $150,000. After paying $15,000 in cash, Zimmerman was released. Reportedly, his defense team said supporter donations have escalated—approximately, $1,000 a day according to them—since his return to jail.
Another added issue, prosecutors and Judge Lester were apparently worried about, was the probability that the murder suspect might’ve been planning to jump bail and flee the jurisdiction. At his bond hearing, the judge ordered Mr. Zimmerman to hand over his passport, as a requirement to receive bail. However, although, he handed over one passport, unknown to the court, he retained a second passport.
Shockingly, Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers have admitted their client was less than truthful about his finances. “While Mr. Zimmerman acknowledges that he allowed his financial situation to be misstated in court, the defense will emphasize that in all other regards, Mr. Zimmerman has been forthright and cooperative,” said Mark O’Mara, a lawyer for Mr. Zimmerman.
Say what? This statement is truly stunning—given the fact that Zimmerman’s credibility should be front and center during his upcoming murder trial.
Is Mr. O’Mara really telling us his client hasn’t been deceptive about the facts of this case—when his freedom hangs in the balance—even though he lied about his finances? Are we to believe this man can be trusted with telling the truth about the manner in which he killed Trayvon? This admission, along with the allegation that Mr. Zimmerman has a second passport, which he didn’t turn over to authorities, should be enough to deny him bail.
One has to wonder why this man was given bail in the first place? Was the unseen hand of his father—a former magistrate—at play here? Was the father’s hand at play when his son was released without being charged in the hours after the death of Trayvon? Question: why was Mr. Zimmerman released if this tape, documenting his deception with his wife about his finances, was recorded while he was still in police custody? Bureaucratic blunder? Something much more sinister going on?
Here, the concerns of a reader from Florida are worth noting. Referring to another case dating decades back, Susan Chandler wrote stating that State Attorney Norm Wolfinger “was up to his hairline in false conviction corruption dating back to the early 80’s, when he served as an ineffectual Brevard/Seminole public defender. Juan Ramos, Wilton Dedge and William Dillon have worked their way free, but Gary Bennett, Jeff Abramowski, Crosley Green and scores of others are still either wrongly incarcerated, dead or dealing everyday with an unearned criminal history.”
This reader also articulated her mistrust for State Attorney Angela Corey—who took over this Zimmerman case from Mr. Wolfinger. Given this latest episode, the reader’s concerns may not be far-fetched. It will be interesting to see how seriously prosecutors challenge Mr. Zimmerman’s credibility at trial.
Oftentimes, within America’s criminal justice system, the penniless “perp” is remanded to jail. As an African-American, I totally agree that this is unfair. Unfortunately, the poor are blamed for their poverty—while the, supposedly, “guiltless” society gets a pass.
This legal reality rebuffs the rhetoric we’re often given—about “Lady Justice” being “blind” with the attendant false notion that “Law and Order” is metered out with fairness and impartiality. The truth is: “justice” is often bought and paid for—just like everything else in American society. Or, it is manipulated by those who work within it.
Question: why did these judicial authorities think $15,000 was enough bail to free this man to begin with? Imagine if it was Trayvon who’d murdered someone with pigmentation resembling Mr. Zimmerman. Do you think he would’ve been released, especially, with such a relatively low bail? Ironically, the low level of bail here illustrates the devalued nature of Black life within America’s “justice” system. Was this judge thinking about Trayvon, or his family, when this judgment was made?
If the rule of thumb was being followed here—and the authorities really believed Mr. Zimmerman’s indigent tales—wouldn’t bail have been denied outright? It seems clear that all through the process it is Mr. Zimmerman who has been given all the benefits of the doubt—even though he is the accused in this case. When State Attorney Wolfinger decided not to charge this defendant he gave him the benefit of the doubt, and, prosecutors also did so when they gave this killer such a relatively paltry bail.
The admission, by Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer, should be enough to nullify the forthcoming request for bail. This killer of Trayvon Martin must remain in jail until the trial.
By; Colin Benjamin