defense attorney

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.

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Marine facing dismissal from the military for his Facebook comments went as far as posting superimposed images of President Barack Obama’s face on a donkey, a prosecutor said Thursday.

 

Prosecutor Capt. John Torresala said the behavior by Marine Sgt. Gary Stein repeatedly violated Pentagon policy limiting the free speech rights of service members. Stein’s security clearance was taken away and he has no future in the Marine Corps because he can’t do his job without that clearance, Torresala said.

 

The government submitted screen grabs of Stein’s postings on one Facebook page he created called Armed Forces Tea Party, which the prosecutor said included the image of the “jackass,” and another page used by Marines such as Stein who work as military meteorologists.

 

Defense attorney Marine Capt. James Baehr said during the hearing that prosecutors were trying to dredge up any damaging information they could against Stein. “There is no basis in this case,” Baehr said. “Sgt. Stein has broken no law.”

 

Stein said his statement about Obama was part of an online debate about NATO allowing U.S. troops to be tried for the Quran burnings in Afghanistan. In that context, he said, he was stating that he would not follow orders from the president if it involved detaining U.S. citizens, disarming them or doing anything else that he believes would violate their constitutional rights.

 

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: Free speech for military on trial after Marine lambastes Obama