Zimmerman arraignment set for May 29
SANFORD, Fla. — The neighborhood watchman who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin will remain in jail while awaiting a bail hearing and formal arraignment on second-degree murder charges, a Seminole County judge ruled Thursday afternoon.
George Zimmerman, 28, appeared at the brief, first- appearance hearing handcuffed and dressed in a gray prison jumpsuit. He said little except to answer “Yes, sir,” twice to acknowledge he understood the charge against him and his representation by an attorney.
Zimmerman did not enter a plea and no bail was set, but a formal arraignment was set for 1:30 p.m. May 29 before Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica J. Recksiedler. Zimmerman will enter a plea then.
At Thursday’s initial hearing, Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s defense attorney, asked the judge for a “complete sealing” of future records in the case, including witness statements and identifying information. Special prosecutor Angela Corey, who was present at the hearing, concurred.
O’Mara later acknowledged that he did not request a bail hearing Thursday because that would require a presentation of additional evidence by prosecutors — something O’Mara said he wants to avoid in order to prevent the case from being tried in the media.
O’Mara added that he will seek bail for his client at a future hearing, possibly next week.
Seminole County Judge Mark E. Herr, who presided over Thursday’s hearing via teleconference, found sufficient evidence to support the charges, clearing the way to send the case to a trial court.
Herr granted O’Mara’s request to seal future records, but said he would make public a two-page affidavit that supports the state’s second-degree murder charge.
According to reports in The Orlando Sentinel, prosecutors said in the affidavit that Zimmerman “confronted Martin and a struggle ensued,” an apparent contradiction of Zimmerman’s account that Martin attacked him from behind.
The affidavit also states that Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, reviewed 911 calls made by neighbors and witnesses that night, and that she identified the screams for help heard in the calls as those of her son.
The document also reveals that investigators interviewed a “friend” who was talking to Trayvon on his cell phone moments before the shooting. The friend likely is the girl described by Martin family attorneys as his girlfriend.
“During this time, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening,” the affidavit states. “The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn’t know why.”
Martin tried to run home, the affidavit states, but “Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin,” disregarding a police dispatcher who advised against that course of action.
According to the affidavit, “Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest.”
Speaking with media after Thursday’s hearing, O’Mara said he is not taking any legal fees for representing Zimmerman, whom O’Mara described as indigent. “He doesn’t have any money,” O’Mara said.
Earlier Thursday, Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said on NBC’s “Today” show that she believed the encounter that led to the shooting death of her 17-year-old son was “an accident,” expressing her opinion in the case for the first time.
“I believe it was an accident,” Fulton said on Today. “I believe that it just got out of control, and he couldn’t turn the clock back.”
Fulton later clarified her statement through the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, who posted her explanation on his Twitter account.
“Earlier today, I made a comment to the media that was later mischaracterized,” read Fulton’s statement. “When I referenced the word ‘accident’ today with regard to Trayvon’s death, in NO way did I mean the shooting was an accident. We believe that George Zimmerman stalked my son and murdered him in cold blood. The ‘accident’ I was referring to was the fact that George Zimmerman and my son ever crossed paths. It was an accidental encounter. If George Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his vehicle, this entire incident would have been avoided. My son was profiled, followed and murdered by George Zimmerman, and there was nothing accidental about that.”