Although lawyers representing George Zimmerman plan to file a motion asking for a new bail hearing for the murder suspect, the filing has been delayed, defense attorneys said Tuesday.
“Mr. Zimmerman’s legal defense team has decided to delay filing a motion for bond,” the defense team said Tuesday on its website, GZLegalcase.com. “A hearing will not be scheduled for a couple of weeks, and we will file a motion well in advance of the hearing.”
The filing was delayed for several reasons, lead defense attorney Mark O’Mara said but did not elaborate.
The 28-year-old Florida man accused in the death of Trayvon Martin had been free on bail for weeks until Sunday afternoon, when he turned himself in to authorities in Seminole County, Florida. The judge had ordered him back after questioning statements made in the first bail hearing.
Zimmerman become a focus of intense national attention this year after he fatally shot the unarmed African-American teenager who had gone out to buy a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea at a 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida.
The neighborhood watch volunteer said the February 26 shooting was in self-defense. Martin’s family and civil rights activists from across the country claim that Zimmerman, who is White and Hispanic, racially profiled the 17-year-old and ignored a 911 dispatcher’s advice not to follow him.
In April, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder after the case was referred to a state attorney for a review. He was released from custody that month after posting bail.
But on Friday, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. ordered Zimmerman back to jail, accusing him of being untruthful about how much money he had access to when his bail was set months earlier.
His wife had told the court under oath that the family was indigent. But prosecutors alleged Zimmerman had $135,000.
Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, said Tuesday that the question is whether the teenager’s shooting was justified, and “the only evidence supporting justification of this shooting is George Zimmerman’s word.
“When his credibility became an issue, defending him became an uphill battle for the defense,” Jackson said. “I believe the defense has decided against putting him back on the witness stand until they can craft an honest, but non-harmful to their case, apology to the court.”
“While Mr. Zimmerman acknowledges that he allowed his financial situation to be misstated in court, the defense will emphasize that in all other regards, Zimmerman has been forthright and cooperative,” Zimmerman’s defense team said Monday on its website. The attorneys added his actions, including giving voluntary statements to police and twice surrendering himself to police when told to do so, should demonstrate he is not a flight risk.
Citing recorded jailhouse conversations between Zimmerman and his wife, prosecutors alleged the two spoke in code when discussing the money in a credit union account, according to court documents filed Friday by State Attorney Angela B. Corey. The prosecutor filed a document in court Friday indicating that Zimmerman made 151 calls while incarcerated between April 12 and April 22.
Zimmerman “fully controlled and participated in the transfer of money from the PayPal account to defendant and his wife’s credit union accounts,” Corey said in court records. “This occurred prior to the time defendant was arguing to the court that he was indigent and his wife had no money.”
The judge “relied on false representations and statements” by Zimmerman and his wife when the court set his bail at $150,000, Corey said. Zimmerman was required to post only 10% of that.
Lester appeared angry that the court wasn’t told about the money.
“Does your client get to sit there like a potted palm and let you lead me down the primrose path?” he asked Zimmerman’s lawyer. “That’s the issue.”
“The audio recordings of Mr. Zimmerman’s phone conversation while in jail make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew a significant sum had been raised by his original fund-raising website,” defense attorneys said Monday. “We feel the failure to disclose these funds was caused by fear, mistrust and confusion. … Mr. Zimmerman understands that this mistake has undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair.”
The attorneys said Zimmerman did tell his lawyers about the funds five days after the bail hearing, during his first conversation about the fund. “When the defense team learned of the funds, we disclosed this to the court and to the state attorney’s office, and the money was transferred to the Legal Defense Fund, which is now independently managed,” the defense said.
Of the $204,000 raised by the website, about $150,000 is now in the defense fund, and $30,000 was used “to make the complicated transition from private life in Sanford, Florida, to a life in hiding as a defendant in a high-profile court case,” the defense said. The rest — about $20,000 — “was kept liquid to provide living expenses for the first several months as the legal process unfolds.”
Since the Legal Defense Fund was established last month, another $37,000 has been contributed, defense attorneys said. Of that, about $2,000 went toward household expenses and “less than $300” for the fund management and fees associated with maintaining the bail conditions.
“None of the funds have yet to be allocated to legal expenses,” the lawyers said on the website.
Addressing reporters after last week’s ruling, O’Mara expressed hope that his client’s detention once again would be short-lived.
“The revocation of bond, I hope, is temporary,” O’Mara said. “I hope that they will give us a day in court to explain George’s behavior and look at all the circumstances … in determining what (Judge Lester) is going to do about letting him back out on bond.”
But Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said Monday that “if attorney O’Mara files the motion, then the stage is set for George Zimmerman and his wife to have to take the witness stand and try to explain what the state attorney said were blatant lies to the court, thus exposing them further to credibility issues.”
Zimmerman’s credibility, he said, is key in the case, as “it is only his version that say Trayvon Martin attacked him. All the objective evidence suggests that he pursued and shot Trayvon Martin in the heart.”
“If Trayvon Martin had lied to the court, we believe he would not be given a bond,” Crump said. “He would have to sit in jail until his trial, and all his parents have asked (is) for equal justice.”
For now, Zimmerman is being held on no-bail status in administrative confinement at Seminole County’s John E. Polk Correctional Facility, Sheriff Donald Eslinger said. Equipped with two beds and a toilet, his cell is designed to hold two inmates and is about 67 square feet, the sheriff’s office said.
Crump, the Martin family attorney, said the late youth’s parents are “relieved that the killer of their unarmed, teenage son is back in jail. They have always wanted him to stay in custody until the trial.” That trial is “anticipated” sometime next year, according to his defense team.
O’Mara has said that his client is “frustrated” that the judge’s ruling compelled him to return to jail.