By Gil Kaufman
George Zimmerman turned himself in to police on April 11 for the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin but he was released from jail at midnight on Monday (April 23) on $150,000 bail. Zimmerman made a swift exit from the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Florida in the wee hours of the morning.
Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder? on April11, nearly two months after he shot and killed Martin in what he claims was self-defense. Martin's February 26 death sent shockwaves through the nation. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, saw 17-year-old Trayvon walking through his gated community in Sanford, Florida, and said he immediately grew suspicious, of the teen, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. It was the hoodie that gunman Zimmerman told police made the 17-year-old appear suspicious and in support of Martin, demonstrators have donned hoodies? as a show of solidarity.
When Zimmerman, 28, called 911, police dispatchers advised him not to pursue Martin. By the time police arrived on the scene, Martin was shot dead and Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense, was not arrested or charged with a crime. Trayvon didn't have a weapon and Zimmerman's lawyers have said their client was adhering to Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows someone who reasonably believes force is necessary to protect themselves using a weapon.
Zimmerman's family needed to raise at least $15,000 to secure his release from jail. At a bail hearing on Friday Zimmerman apologized to Martin's family in his first public comments on the incident. "I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son," he said in a direct appeal to Martin's family. "I thought he was a little bit younger than I was, and I did not know if he was armed or not."
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, said that his client's apology was a response to a recent interview by Martin's mother, who said she wanted to hear from the man who shot her son. "He didn't want to defend himself, he didn't want to discuss the facts of the case," O'Mara said. "He heard the request of the family, and he wanted to respond to it." A family friend told CNN that Martin's parents were "completely devastated" over the judge's decision to allow Zimmerman to post bond. Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda had argued for a higher bond total closer to $1 million, citing prior run-ins with a police officer and a woman who named Zimmerman in a domestic violence injunction.
Though O'Mara has said he is concerned about Zimmerman's safety given the outcry in the case, no decision has been made yet on whether his client will be allowed to leave Florida as he awaits trial. Zimmerman was fitted with an electronic monitoring device before his release.
The hip-hop community has been particularly vocal in their call for justice for the teen. ?uestlove, Game?, Young Jeezy, Nas, Killer Mike and Prodigy all spoke out in protest, while rappers like Plies and Bad Boy's Los made songs dedicated to Trayvon.