US & Canada

Florida judge sets George Zimmerman bail at $150,000

The neighbourhood watch volunteer accused of murdering an unarmed black Florida teenager has been granted bail, set at $150,000 (£93,000).

George Zimmerman's defence lawyer asked that his client be allowed to reside out of state because of safety fears.

In a second appearance in court since his arrest, Mr Zimmerman told Trayvon Martin's parents he was sorry for the loss of their son.

He shot and killed the 17-year-old in a gated Florida community on 26 February.

Mr Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara, said his client's release would be a "several day process".

'Not a danger'

Granting bail, Judge Kenneth Lester said Mr Zimmerman should inform the police of his location every three days and imposed a curfew between the hours of 19:00 and 06:00 each day.

Mr Zimmerman would be tracked electronically, he said, and would be forbidden from carrying firearms, drinking alcohol, or contacting the victim's family personally or through an intermediary.

Earlier, members of Mr Zimmerman's family told the judge by phone testimony that they did not have much money for bail.

In a moment of drama inside the courtroom, Mr Zimmerman took the stand to make a statement directed at the parents of Trayvon Martin.

"I am sorry for the loss of your son," the suspect said, adding that he had not known how old the teenager was, and did not know that he was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Martin's parents were "devastated" that Mr Zimmerman might soon be free on bail, family lawyer Benjamin Crump told reporters.

Mr Crump also said the apology was too late to be genuine.

"And it was devastating that he got to give a self-serving apology to help him get a bond," Mr Crump said. "They were very outraged at that."

Mr Zimmerman, accused of second-degree murder and facing a possible life sentence, appeared in court wearing a suit and shackled at the waist and wrists.

He sat between his lawyers during the hearing and conferred with them occasionally.

Prosecutors asked Mr Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, about a 2005 incident when her husband was arrested for assaulting a police officer, and an anger management course he had been required to take.

Mrs Zimmerman testified that she did not believe her husband was a danger to the community.

"He is absolutely not a violent person," Mrs Zimmerman said.

His father, Robert, said he did not know his son to be violent unless provoked, and even then he was likely to "turn the other cheek".

In testimony that backed defence assertions that Mr Zimmerman was hurt while defending himself, his father described the injuries he saw on his son's body after the confrontation with Trayvon Martin.

"His face was swollen quite a bit. He had a protective cover over his nose. His lip was swollen and cut. And there were two vertical gashes on the back of his head," he said.

'Looking suspicious'

Mr Zimmerman's mother, Gladys, testified that her son was "very protective" of people, especially the homeless and children.

She said her son was once recognised by the mayor of Sanford for seeking justice for a homeless man and that he had been mentoring a 14-year-old African-American boy for the last two years.

"He said, 'mom, if I don't go, they don't have nobody,'" she testified by telephone.

Mr Zimmerman says that he acted in self-defence after an altercation broke out with Martin. He was not arrested because under Florida law the use of lethal force is allowed if a person feels seriously under threat.

The incident prompted protests in Florida and elsewhere in the US calling for the arrest of Mr Zimmerman and "justice" for Trayvon Martin.

According to an affidavit of probable cause released by the prosecutor's office when charges were brought, Trayvon Martin was walking home from a local shop carrying a bag of sweets and a can of iced tea when he was "profiled" by Mr Zimmerman.

The document notes that Martin was unarmed but Mr Zimmerman assumed he was a criminal.

The neighbourhood watch volunteer had told a police dispatcher he thought Martin, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, looked suspicious.

The dispatcher advised Mr Zimmerman not to go after the young man. But minutes later a confrontation ensued, leading to the fatal shooting.

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