SANFORD, Fla., (Reuters) – George Zimmerman, the former neighbourhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, was released early on Monday from a Florida county jail on $150,000 bail.
Wearing a brown jacket, jeans and carrying a brown paper bag, Zimmerman walked out of the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County moments after midnight after posting bail and meeting other conditions set for his release at a pretrial detention hearing on Friday.
Zimmerman was met by another man and quickly climbed into a white BMW sports utility vehicle that drove off. He made no comments to a handful of journalists gathered outside the jail.
Under the conditions set by Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., Zimmerman must wear an electronic monitoring device and he may be allowed to leave the state. He must also observe a dusk-to-dawn curfew and is prohibited from consuming illegal drugs or alcohol or possessing a firearm.
No date has been set for Zimmerman’s trial. Due to safety concerns, his whereabouts are expected to remain a closely guarded secret until his next appearance in court.
Zimmerman shot and killed Martin is a gated community in Sanford in central Florida on Feb. 26 in an incident that triggered civil rights protests nationwide and fired a national debate over guns, self-defense laws and race in America.
Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, has said he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense following a confrontation that occurred as Martin was returning to his father’s house in the community after buying candy from a convenience store.
Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of getting killed or suffering great bodily harm.
The lack of an arrest led thousands to march in protest rallies in Sanford and across the country. The public outrage forced the Sanford police chief and regularly assigned prosecutor to step aside.
At the Friday hearing, Zimmerman apologized to Martin’s family, stunning a rapt courtroom after he appeared in a suit and tie and with shackles around his waist and wrists.
Governor Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey as special prosecutor. She charged Zimmerman on April 11.