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Shooter Apologizes To Trayvon Martin's Family

Apr 20, 2012
Originally published on April 20, 2012 6:06 pm
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block. The Trayvon Martin shooting case has been full of twists and turns and, today, in a courtroom in Sanford, Florida, there was yet another surprise.

At his bond hearing, the accused, George Zimmerman, took the stand, and, for the first time, spoke directly to the victim's parents. In the end, his hearing played out like a miniature trial. Matthew Peddie of member station WMFE was in the courtroom.

MATTHEW PEDDIE, BYLINE: In the middle of the bond hearing, George Zimmerman's defense attorney shocked the courtroom. His client would take the stand to make a statement. Wearing a dark suit and with his hands in shackles, Zimmerman faced the parents of Trayvon Martin, the teenager he killed in February.

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am and I did not know if he was armed or not.

PEDDIE: The apology appeared to catch the prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, by surprise.

BERNIE DE LA RIONDA: Why did you wait so long to tell Mr. Martin and the victim's mother - the father and mother - why did you wait so long to tell them?

ZIMMERMAN: I was told not to communicate with them.

PEDDIE: Other details emerged, too. State investigator Dale Gilbreath confirmed parts of George Zimmerman's account. Zimmerman claimed Trayvon Martin attacked him and bashed his head on a sidewalk. This happened after he started following the teenager because he thought he was suspicious.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara questioned Gilbreath, who agreed Zimmerman had cuts on his head.

MARK O'MARA: The injuries seem to be consistent with his story, though, don't they?

DALE GILBREATH: The injuries are consistent with a harder object striking the back of his head than his head was.

PEDDIE: Gilbreath also testified that powder burns on Trayvon Martin's clothes indicate he was shot at close range. The judge declared that George Zimmerman was not a flight risk and set bond at $150,000. He turned in his passport and will have to wear a GPS device. He'll also have a nighttime curfew and will need to check in with authorities once every three days.

Outside the courthouse, O'Mara said he was pleased.

O'MARA: (Unintelligible) he really needs to be back with his family. It's a very trying time for everybody. I'm just hoping that the emotions that we sort of had to present in the courtroom today to bring out some of the facts, as the judge had to consider it, I'm hoping that those emotions just keep things calm.

PEDDIE: Trayvon Martin's parents left the court without speaking to reporters, but their attorney, Ben Crump, said they're devastated Zimmerman will be out on bail.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: Zimmerman makes this self-serving apology in court 50 days later. The real George Zimmerman website - and you all have reviewed it - never once said I'm sorry.

PEDDIE: Crump said Trayvon Martin's parents are praying Zimmerman's freedom will only be temporary. He said the prosecution has a strong case and there's much more evidence to be revealed once the actual trial begins.

For NPR News, I'm Matthew Peddie in Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.