(CNN) — The neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in central Florida, could soon be released from custody after a judge set a $150,000 bond that will let him get out of jail while he awaits trial.
George Zimmerman apologized in court Friday to Martin’s family for shooting the 17-year-old boy in a confrontation that has riveted the nation and sparked intense discussions about race and gun control.
“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” Zimmerman said in an unusual appeal directly to Martin’s family before he testified in the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford. “I thought he was a little bit younger than I was, and I did not know if he was armed or not.”
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said after the hearing that his client was responding to an interview in which Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she wanted to hear from the man who shot her son.
“He didn’t want to defend himself, he didn’t want to discuss the facts of the case. He heard the request of the family, and he wanted to respond to it,” O’Mara said, adding that an attempt to apologize to the family in private was rebuffed.
Attorneys for Martin’s family, however, called the apology a self-serving act by a man facing a life prison sentence if convicted of the second-degree murder charge against him.
“This was the most disingenuous, insulting thing I’ve ever seen,” said Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson.
Martin’s parents were “completely devastated” over the decision to allow Zimmerman to post bond and eventually go free, attorney Benjamin Crump said.
Prosecutors had asked that Zimmerman remain in jail without bond or that Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. set bond at $1 million — an amount O’Mara said the family would be unable to handle.
Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda said Zimmerman’s prior run-ins with a police officer and a woman who named him in a domestic violence injunction show that he is violent and a threat to the community.
Lester, however, described the incidents as “run of the mill” and “somewhat mild” in approving O’Mara’s request for bond.
With the 10% cash payment customarily made to secure bond, Zimmerman could be freed with $15,000 from his family, attorneys said.
He will likely remain in jail for at least a couple of days while his attorneys and authorities work out terms of his release, which also include electronic monitoring and other restrictions, O’Mara said.
The judge told O’Mara to talk to authorities about his request to allow Zimmerman to leave Florida while awaiting trial. O’Mara said he is concerned about threats to Zimmerman’s safety, as well as that of his family.
De la Rionda said no decision has been made on whether to allow Zimmerman to leave the state.
Zimmerman’s father testified Friday that when he saw his son the day after Martin’s shooting, he was wearing a protective cover over his nose, his face was swollen, and he had two vertical gashes on his head. He also reportedly suffered a broken nose.
Martin’s family and the special prosecutor appointed to investigate the case have rejected that argument, saying they believe Zimmerman disobeyed the instructions of a police dispatcher to stop following Martin, racially profiled him and unjustly killed him.
Although details of the shooting remain murky, what is known is that Martin ventured out from the home of his father’s fiancee in Sanford and went to a nearby convenience store, where he bought a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea.
On his way back, he had a confrontation with Zimmerman, who shot him.
Zimmerman had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood, according to authorities.
In the call, Zimmerman said he was following Martin after the teen started to run, prompting the dispatcher to tell him, “We don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman pursued Martin anyway.
After briefly losing track of the teen, Zimmerman told authorities the teen approached him and the two exchanged words. Zimmerman said he reached for his cell phone, then Martin punched him in the nose. Zimmerman said Martin pinned him down and began slamming his head onto the sidewalk, leading to the shooting.
Police have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there was no evidence to disprove his account that he had acted in self-defense. A police report indicated he was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head.