The wife of accused Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman has found herself in trouble after being charged with perjury, but it may well cost Zimmerman’s defense even more if the case goes to trial.
Shellie Zimmerman, during her husband’s bond hearing, testified that the couple had no money to post bail for the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, who stands accused of killing the 17-year-old on Feb. 26. She said that because she was a full-time student and her husband wasn’t working they couldn’t pay a hefty bond. But during a recent hearing, assistant special prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda pointed out to Judge Kenneth Lester that a website set up by Zimmerman to raise funds for his defense collected more than $200,000.
Frustrated with the defendant’s failure to disclose that fact, Lester ordered Zimmerman back to jail and revoked his bond. Because she spoke for Zimmerman in her testimony, Shellie Zimmerman was charged with perjury and must defend herself separately. If found guilty, she faces a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
But the perjury charge could weigh even heavier on Zimmerman if his case goes to trial: his defense team will have to decide whether or not to call as a character witness a person who’s already accused of perjuring herself for the defendant. “It should pretty much knock her out as a witness,” says University of Florida Law Professor Michelle Jacobs. “It does give the prosecutor a serious opportunity to cross examine her on credibility.”
In court documents, prosecutors allege Shellie Zimmerman actually used money transfers to hide the couple’s finances as they tried to get him freed on bond. It remains unclear how much Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara knew about the funds his client had available to make bail. But Jacobs suggests that counsel should have been more privy to the couple’s financial situation. “The interesting question for me, even with the bond hearing, was What does the lawyer actually know? ” says Jacobs. “If I knew my client was raising money on a website and their financial credibility would come into question, I would ask to see the bank statements.”
Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have asked a state task force charged with reviewing Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law to amend it so that the initiator of a conflict would not be able to use the defense so easily.
The Florida Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection met Tuesday near Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place, and Martin and Fulton presented the 19-member group with a petition of 375,000 signatures calling for reform in the statute. “I am not saying get rid of it. Please amend it, review it,” said Fulton.
Her attorney, Benjamin Crump, proposed what’s being called the Trayvon Martin Amendment — arguing that the current law encourages aggression with weapons. “You cannot initiate a confrontation and then turn around and say you are standing your ground,” Crump said.