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George Zimmerman to leave jail again as judge sets $1 million bond (+video)

The judge in the Trayvon Martin case set the new bond for George Zimmerman at $1 million. But Zimmerman needs to post only a percentage to be freed. His lawyer says he has the money. 

By Staff writer / July 5, 2012

George Zimmerman (l.) and attorney Don West appear before Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. during a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla., last month.

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP

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Atlanta

A Florida judge ordered George Zimmerman released from jail for a second time if he can raise $100,000 to post bail under a $1 million bond.

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The neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin can be released from jail on $1 million bond while he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge, a judge ruled Thursday.

Mr. Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, says “The Real George Zimmerman Defense Fund” – a cache of money donated by strangers that Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, allegedly tried to hide from the court – has enough money to cover the bail. As a result, the alleged murderer of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin is expected to be able once again to leave jail and go into hiding as he awaits trial.

Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Judge Kenneth Lester revoked Zimmerman’s bond last month after prosecutors released audio tapes in which Zimmerman appeared to be talking in code with his wife about how to disburse donated monies. When Ms. Zimmerman was asked about the money at an April 20 bond hearing – Mr. Zimmerman’s first after being arrested on second-degree murder charges – she claimed ignorance, and Mr. Zimmerman himself did not correct the record. Ms. Zimmerman was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of perjury for allegedly lying to the court.

Judge Lester made it clear that his decision Thursday does not mean Mr. Zimmerman's credibility is restored in the eyes of the court.

"Under any definition, the defendant has flaunted the system," the judge wrote. "Counsel has attempted to portray the defendant as being a confused young man who was fearful and experienced a moment of weakness and who may have also have acted out of a sense of 'betrayal' by the system. Based upon all the evidence presented, this court finds the opposite. The defendant tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so."

Perceptions of Zimmerman's credibility could be key to the trial, given that he must convince a jury that he acted in self-defense, not out of reckless malice. He has previously told the court that he thought Trayvon was an adult and may have been armed, and that he didn’t shoot until he believed the teenager was reaching for his gun.

But local police have pointed out several inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s testimony, and prosecutors have suggested that his injuries were never life-threatening, and that he has an inclination to try to manipulate people and events by lying.

While Zimmerman was allowed to go into hiding outside the state under the terms of his first bond, the new bond requires him to stay in Seminole County. As was the case under the first bond, Zimmerman will again have to wear a GPS anklet and report back to the court every few days.

Before his first bond was revoked, one of his probationers had called Zimmerman “a model client” – a statement that may have helped him in the eyes of Lester. The judge said that Florida law compels him to release on bond most defendants who are not considered a flight risk or a threat to the community. 

Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., after notifying police about a young black man in the neighborhood and getting out of his car to pursue him.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman illegally played cop by hunting down the innocent boy, engaging him, and then shooting him after Trayvon defended himself. Zimmerman says he was on the way back to his car when Trayvon jumped out of some bushes, punched him in the face, knocking him down, and bashed the back of his head against a concrete walkway.

The decision by local police in Sanford to not charge Zimmerman, despite some misgivings about the act, sparked national outrage and a heated debate about racial profiling and "stand your ground" gun laws in many states that declare residents have no “duty to retreat” from danger and can use deadly force, if deemed reasonable, against assailants in public places.

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