George Zimmerman at court for his first bond hearing at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., on April 20.
Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is now being held in solitary confinement, is scheduled to appear in a Florida court on Friday, seeking another chance to be released on bail after it was revoked by a judge.
Speaking to NBC News on Thursday, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said that his client, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, presents no flight risk, no threat to the public and that the only question should be the bond amount required by the judge.
"If it is a truly large amount of money, then those supporters who are out there who have already supported him are going to have to sort of dig deeper into their pockets because quite honestly, I need him out to help me work on the defense,” said O’Mara. "We have, let's say, a hundred hours, 120 hours, of documents and videos and audios. I want him available to me so that I can interact with him."
"And jail is not supposed to be punishment before trial," he added. "It's only to ensure that you come back to the courtroom, and he has shown that time and time again."
Zimmerman was not arrested until several weeks after the shooting of Martin, who was walking through a gated neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. when the encounter took place. Zimmerman asserts that he acted in self-defense and pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge.
Judge Kenneth Lester granted a request from O’Mara that Zimmerman be allowed to appear in court without shackles and wearing civilian clothes rather than his prison uniform.
O'Mara argued that with the heavy media presence outside the courthouse, the prison garb could damage Zimmerman's chances of getting a fair trial.
"We can't deny the fact that public perception is important," he told NBC. "Chains suggest incarceration. Chains suggest guilt."
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, parents of the victim Trayvon Martin, were planning to be in court for Zimmerman's bond hearing, lawyers for the Martin family told NBC News.
O’Mara said he did not expect Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, to appear at the courthouse on her husband’s behalf, because of the risk that she might incriminate herself as she battles a perjury charge.
Shellie Zimmerman is accused of misleading the court at her husband's April 20 bond hearing, when she asserted that she did not know how much money was in a PayPal account set up for contributions to Zimmerman’s legal defense.
In recorded telephone conversations from jail prior to that date, Zimmerman and his wife appear to discuss — in thinly disguised code — the amount of money in the account, and he instructs her to make a series of transfers to other accounts, the prosecution charges. (Read original report.)
Special Prosecutor Angela Corey used the recordings to persuade the judge to revoke the original $150,000 bond for George Zimmerman, who was rearrested on June 3. Shellie Zimmerman was arrested on June 12, charged with perjury and released on $1,000 bond.
O’Mara said that if Zimmerman is released on bond, he would go back into hiding for his own safety. The shooting death of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, in February has stirred an emotional national debate about race, gun rights and the "stand-your-ground" laws like the one in Florida that use a broad definition of self-defense.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman is being held in protective custody in isolation at the Seminole County Jail in Sanford, Fla.
"He’s reading the Bible. He is just trying to get by," said O’Mara, when asked about Zimmerman’s mental state. "But he's very worried about Shellie. That's a primary focus of his. He wants out. He wants to be able to get forward with moving the case forward."
O’Mara dismissed as irrelevant new information reported by the Miami Herald that Zimmerman was a no-show for a scheduled deposition related to a civil lawsuit he had filed to recoup wages from a former employer.
In that incident, the court fined him $10,000 after lawyers, including one who flew in from Atlanta, waited an hour and a half for Zimmerman while trying to reach him, the Herald reported. Zimmerman ultimately did win $18,000 from the employers bankruptcy trustee, but the fine was never paid, it said.
In an email to the Herald, O’Mara said: "To the extents that courts concern themselves with a client’s appearance, missing a noticed or scheduled court proceeding is considered significant… (But) missing a deposition, while we don’t know why Mr. Zimmerman missed a deposition in a civil case, missing a deposition is not missing a scheduled court proceeding."
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