April 27, 2012 / 2:15 AM / 5 years ago

Florida judge rejects bail hike for Trayvon Martin's killer

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida judge rejected a prosecution request to raise the bond for George Zimmerman on Friday, after it was disclosed that the man charged with murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin had received about $200,000 from anonymous donors to fund his defense.

"I'm not going to make a snap decision," Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. said during a hearing in Sanford, the central Florida town where 17-year-old Martin was shot dead by Zimmerman in February.

He spoke after Prosecutor Bernardo de la Rionda said the disclosure by Zimmerman's lawyer on Thursday that donors had contributed "just over $200,000" to his defense meant that the amount of his bond should be reconsidered.

Lester said he needed more information about Zimmerman's fund-raising before he could agree to any request for reconsideration of the bond.

Zimmerman was released this week on $150,000 bail and has been moved to an undisclosed location. He had surrendered to police earlier this month after prosecutors charged him with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin.

Ben Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, had expressed outrage over the money raised for Zimmerman's defense, saying it was not disclosed before his bond hearing and that the $150,000 bond should now be revoked since defense lawyer Mark O'Mara had previously described Zimmerman as penniless.

Circuit Court Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. presides over a hearing scheduled to deal with several media organization's request to unseal documents from George Zimmerman's court file and discuss donations raised by a web site for his legal defense at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, April 27, 2012.Red Huber/Pool

"The court was led to believe that he (Zimmerman) had no money and was indigent. He either did not tell his lawyer or if he did tell his lawyer he did not discuss it with the judge. What George Zimmerman did was deceive the court," Crump said.

No formal motion for revoking Zimmerman's bail was filed with Lester before Friday's hearing, however.

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The prosecution did request an order that would bar lawyers from making public comments about the case. But Lester rejected the call for a gag order out of hand, saying attorneys on both sides of the case had done a good job dealing with the media spotlight surrounding it.

Nothing that prosecutors or O'Mara have said publicly about the case had "startled the court or shocked the court" so far, Lester said.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty and says he killed Martin in self defense. But the Martin shooting triggered civil rights protests, and a national debate over guns, self-defense laws, and race relations in America, because police initially failed to arrest Zimmerman or charge his with any crime.

(This story has been corrected to change the dateline from MIAMI to SANFORD, Fla.)

Editing By Tom Brown; Editing by Vicki Allen

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