SANFORD, Florida Former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, 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 and jeans and carrying a brown paper bag, Zimmerman walked out of the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Sanford, Florida, moments after midnight after posting bail and meeting other conditions set for his release at a hearing on Friday.
Zimmerman was met by another man and quickly climbed into a late-model white BMW that drove off. He made no comments to a handful of reporters gathered outside the jail.
Under conditions set by Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., Zimmerman must wear an electronic monitoring device and he may be allowed to leave the state. He also must observe a dusk-to-dawn curfew and is prohibited from consuming illegal drugs or alcohol or possessing a firearm.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Martin's parents, said the family was "praying and trying to trust" in the judicial process that allowed Zimmerman to be released from jail but hoped that he would not remain free for long.
"They were heavy-hearted that the killer of their son was released from jail," Crump told Reuters.
"However, they hope that his freedom is temporary because the pain he has caused their family is permanent. They're never going to get Trayvon back."
If convicted, Zimmerman could face life in prison.
Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara, appearing in on CBS's "This Morning" program, said there had been no recent threats against his client but his whereabouts are expected to remain secret until his next appearance in court.
Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in a gated community in Sanford in central Florida on February 26 in an incident that prompted civil rights protests and a national debate over guns, self-defense laws and race in America.
No date has been set for Zimmerman's trial, but court documents released on Monday said he had been ordered to appear before Judge Lester for his arraignment on the murder charge in court in Sanford at 1:30 p.m. on May 8.
NOT GUILTY PLEA
The court filings also showed that Zimmerman entered a written plea of not guilty and requested a trial by jury when he made his initial appearance in court on April 12.
Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, has said he shot the 17-year-old Martin, who lived near Miami, in self-defense. The confrontation occurred as Martin was returning to the home of his father's fiancee 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 being 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 also forced the Sanford police chief and the regularly assigned prosecutor for the case to step aside.
Bill Lee, who was head of the Sanford Police Department when Martin was shot dead, had been expected to resign on Monday night under terms of a formal separation agreement.
But the city commission voted 3-2 to reject Lee's resignation, saying he should remain on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a probe into police handling of the case.
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.
Zimmerman's lawyer had requested bail of no more than $15,000. Prosecutors opposed his release and sought bail of $1 million.
Governor Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey as special prosecutor. She charged Zimmerman on April 11.
(Additional reporting by Greg McCune, Kevin Gray and Barbara Liston; writing by Tom Brown; editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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