Sanford, FL - Family members of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who was arrested last week on second-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, testified at his bail hearing this morning they would assume responsibility for his whereabouts if he is released from jail.
Testifying by telephone, Mr. Zimmerman's wife, Shellie Nichole Zimmerman, said that she would also notify the court and law enforcement officials if she lost contact with Mr. Zimmerman for any reason before his trial.
Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. of Seminole County Circuit Court, who is presiding over the hearing, agreed to allow Ms. Zimmerman and other members of the Zimmerman family, including his father, Robert, and his mother, Gladys, to testify at the hearing by telephone out of concern for their safety.
Mr. Zimmerman, 28, dressed in a white shirt, dark suit and gray tie, was shackled and wore a somber expression during the proceedings as he sat next to his lawyer, Mark O'Mara.
He showed no expression as his wife calmly answered questions from both Mr. O'Mara and Bernado De La Rionada, an assistant state attorney.
Ms. Zimmerman said she and her husband had been married for almost five years and that she did not believe that he posed a flight risk. She said she spoke with him every day by phone when he was in hiding in the weeks before his arrest.
Mr. De La Rionada asked her whether she believed her husband was a violent person. She replied, "No."
Mr. Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Ã– Fulton, sat in the small courtroom during the hearing.
Mr. Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, are expected to also attend the hearing.
Mr. Zimmerman has spent nine days in the Seminole County jail since his arrest, which came six weeks after he shot and killed Mr. Martin, 17, who was unarmed and walking through a small gated development in Sanford. Mr. Zimmerman told police he shot Mr. Martin in self-defense.
The case, which led to protests and marches around the country, raised questions about Florida's expansive self-defense law and racial profiling after Mr. Zimmerman was not immediately arrested after the shooting on Feb. 26 and remained free for weeks. Widely criticized for not moving quickly enough on the case, both the Sanford police chief and the local prosecutor stepped aside.
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Angela B. Corey, a state attorney from the Jacksonville area, as a special prosecutor to manage the case. Ms. Corey brought the maximum possible charge against Mr. Zimmerman, outlining in court papers that he had profiled Mr. Martin based on his race before following him as he walked through the development.
Mr. O'Mara is expected to ask for reasonable bail to be set for Mr. Zimmerman and to point out that his client had turned himself in when he learned he was facing charges and, therefore, does not pose a flight risk.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Mr. Zimmerman, could face life in prison.
This article, "Bail Hearing This Morning for Gunman in Martin Shooting," originally appeared in The New York Times.