Karen McVeigh, Guardian, April 23, 2012
George Zimmerman’s lawyer has said sorry for the surprise apology his client offered to Trayvon Martin’s parents during his bail bond hearing last Friday, saying neither he nor Zimmerman had realised Martin’s family would find it inappropriate.
Mark O’Mara told CBS This Morning that if he had known the apology would upset Martin’s family, he would not have allowed Zimmerman to do it.
Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder for the shooting of the unarmed teenager in Sanford, Florida, was released from jail at around midnight on Sunday on $150,000 bail. He is required to wear a GPS tracker and has been taken to an undisclosed location, possibly outside the state.
On Monday, the same day as Zimmerman was released on bail, Sanford’s police chief was expected to officially resign, according to ABC news.
Quoting sources, the television station reported that police chief Bill Lee was expected to resign at 4pm.
Lee announced last month that he was stepping down temporarily because his leadership had become a distraction for the investigation into Martin’s killing.
It followed a 3 to 2 vote of no confidence in him by the Sanford City Commission and calls for his resignation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Criticism included that he failed to immediately take Zimmerman into custody and failed to take drug and alcohol tests after the shooting.
When contacted by the Guardian on Monday, no-one at the Sanford police department was immediately available for comment.
On Friday, Zimmerman took the witness stand at the hearing and addressed Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who were in court: “I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said. “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.”
When a prosecutor asked why it had taken so long for him to express his condolences, he said he was told not to communicate with the family.
After the hearing, Benjamin Crump, the lawyer for the Martin family, made clear the family’s distaste, dismissing the apology as insincere and poorly timed. The family had rejected O’Mara’s request for a private meeting before the hearing as “self-serving”.
“The apology was somewhat of a surprise because we had told them this was not the appropriate time, but they just disregarded that, and he went and pandered to the court and the media and gave a very insincere apology,” Crump told reporters.
“We had reached out to see if we could do it privately,” O’Mara said on Monday. But he said he had been unaware of the family’s response to his request.
O’Mara dismissed the claim that Zimmerman’s comments were aimed at the judge in order to influence the bond hearing. He said he would have advised his client differently had he been aware of the family’s response, which he said wasn’t communicated to him.
He said: “I didn’t realise that the way [Martin’s family] had responded to me was through a press conference where they said it was too late or not an appropriate time.
“To be honest, had I known that — maybe had I seen the press conference — I’m not sure that we would have done it at the bond hearing, because the purpose of it truly was to get to the family and to respond directly to the family’s request. Had I known or been told that that wasn’t the time, it wouldn’t have happened. So I apologise for that.”
“But certainly it wasn’t necessary to get a bond. It is not usual that you have somebody get up at all in a bond hearing. We wouldn’t have done it in this case.”
O’Mara told the New York Times last week that Zimmerman had wanted to answer the three questions that he had heard Martin’s mother raise during a television interview. They were: why haven’t you apologised? Did you know he was a teenager? And did you know he was unarmed?
Zimmerman, who admits shooting the unarmed black teenager on February 26 this year, is pleading not guilty, claiming-self defence.