Experts say Zimmerman attorney made smart move

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George Zimmerman appears before a judge for a bond hearing on Friday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. — By questioning a state investigator on the witness stand during a routine bail hearing, George Zimmerman’s defense attorney showed some of the weaknesses in prosecutors’ claims that the neighborhood watch volunteer committed second-degree murder, legal experts say.

A judge ruled Friday that Zimmerman can be released on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during a Feb. 26 confrontation in a Sanford, Fla. gated community. Zimmerman apologized to Martin’s parents, who were in the courtroom for the bail hearing, in a surprise appearance on the witness stand. Zimmerman is pleading not guilty and claims self-defense.

The apology came after Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, questioned an investigator for the special prosecutor, sentence by sentence, about a probable cause affidavit the investigator signed outlining certain facts in the case.

Investigator Dale Gilbreath testified that he does not know whether Martin or Zimmerman threw the first punch and that there is no evidence to disprove Zimmerman’s contention he was walking back to his vehicle when confronted by Martin. The affidavit says “Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.”

But Gilbreath also said Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was slamming his head against the sidewalk just before he shot the teenager was “not consistent with the evidence we found.” He gave no details.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda dismissed any notion that the investigator’s testimony chipped away at their case. “You have not heard all of the evidence,” de la Rionda said after the hearing. “Please be patient and wait for the trial.”

Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.

As part of the bail hearing, Zimmerman’s family testified that he wouldn’t flee if released and would be no threat to the community.

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: Zimmerman trial heats up as judge grants $150k bail.