(SANFORD, Fla.) — George Zimmerman could be released from jail on $1 million bond while he awaits trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida judge ruled Thursday.
Zimmerman has been in jail since June when prosecutors proved that he and his wife had misled the court about how much money they had in their bank accounts. He had previously been freed on $150,000 bond, but was asked to surrender himself after the revelations about his finances came to light.
“This court finds that the defendant tried to manipulate the system when presented with the opportunity to do so,” Judge Kenneth Lester wrote in the bond order released Thursday.
Zimmerman, 28, could draw on the more than $200,000 donated by his supporters in order to pay 10 percent or more to a bail bondsman, who would then post the rest of the bond on Zimmerman’s behalf.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February shooting of 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed. Zimmerman has said he shot Martin in self-defense after the teenager attacked him.
Donations poured into Zimmerman’s self-created website following his April arrest for the shooting.
Lester’s decision Thursday comes after a hearing in which Zimmerman’s lawyers tried to establish that their client might have thought he had suffered a “life-threatening injury.”
Zimmerman has said that he shot the unarmed teenager after being knocked down, having his head banged on the pavement and then believing that Martin was going for Zimmerman’s handgun.
Zimmerman’s father testified at the hearing and identified his son’s voice as the male voice yelling for help in the background of a 911 call recording that was played in court.
Ambulance workers who treated Zimmerman on the night of the shooting told the court that Zimmerman’s head was covered in blood after the shooting, and that the lacerations on his head “would probably need stitches.”
In addition, a forensic accountant for the defense, Adam Magill, walked the court through the donations to Zimmerman’s legal defense fund.
Under cross examination, however, accountant Adam Magill testified that Zimmerman and his wife had shifted about $132,000 between four accounts, often transferring sums of $9,999. Transfers of $10,000 or more are required to be noted by banks and a prosecutor suggested it was intended “to make it look like he didn’t have the money.”
Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara said Zimmerman’s credibility will now be a major issue which he will have to address.
O’Mara also argued for the bond last week, telling the judge that the prosecution had a weak case against his client.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Doug Criss, CNN
Ray Sanchez, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN