In a surprise move, Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, is expected back in court on the morning of Friday, April 20, 2012 to request bail. This is much earlier that his May 29, 2012 arraignment date, where bail had been expected to be raised. It is highly unlikely that he will be able to post a bond, even if the court were to set one. Special Prosecutor, Angela Corey, says that based on the evidence, the charge of 2nd degree is appropriate and one that can be proven. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, a former prosecutor himself, wants his client out of jail to work with him on preparing his case. Judge Kenneth Lester, an experienced judge since 1996 and known for listening to both sides will decide the issue.
Considerations of bail include the nature of the crime, amount of evidence, defendant’s family ties to the community, employment, criminal record and danger to the community and any previous flight risk. The strongest arguments against Zimmerman receiving a bail are the crime of 2nd degree murder, the evidence the prosecutor says is available against him and his flight issues. Remember Zimmerman had been at an undisclosed location for 44 days. And in the days leading up to his arrest, his two prior attorneys had lost contact with him and had no idea of his whereabouts. Ironically, his prior attorneys’ press conference may prove very damaging to Zimmerman’s chances of release on bail. They also leaked that he had lost his job. With a murder charge, substantial evidence according to the prosecutor, danger to the community based on the murder charge, risk of flight issues and lack of job, Zimmerman faces an uphill battle.
On the defense side, attorney Mark O’Mara, has stated that he needs his client out on bail in order to work with him. That is hardly a reason for bail. An attorney has no limitations on working with a client in jail. O’Mara will no doubt argue about his client’s prior criminal record or lack of one, family ties and community ties. O’Mara will argue for bail conditions such as a monitor, home detention, no travel outside of Florida and no firearms in his possession. He will argue that his client will not be a risk. O’Mara runs a fine line between asking for bail to be set and asking for special privileges for his client’s pre-trial release. With all the issues in obtaining an arrest in this case, Zimmerman cannot be given what is perceived as special privileges for his release. He should be treated no differently than any other defendant charged with 2nd degree murder.
Judge Lester will listen to both sides, the defense’s plea for lenient bail conditions and the prosecutor’s tough stance against it. Angela B. Corey is known as an aggressive prosecutor and sometimes unpopular for some of her views. As a tough prosecutor, she will be prepared to argue that Zimmerman stay in jail pending his trial. O’Mara has stated that he will be able to locate a safe place for Zimmerman in the state. In the end, the safest place for Zimmerman might be jail in protective custody. And that is where he will probably remain until a trial date. Zimmerman faces 25 years to life, if convicted for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian News TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.