Shooter of Florida teen Trayvon Martin pleads not guilty

Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:55pm GMT

By Tom Brown and Chris Francescani

SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - A handcuffed George Zimmerman, charged with killing unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, appeared in court for the first time on Thursday and his lawyer said a not guilty plea was entered on his "frightened" client's behalf.

The neighbourhood watch volunteer's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, also said he wanted Zimmerman to be released on bond, but not until he could secure a safe place for him to stay while he faces murder charges in the February 26 killing of 17-year-old Martin in a quiet gated community in the central Florida town of Sanford.

Zimmerman, hands shackled, head shaved and wearing a close-clipped goatee, addressed a judge via teleconference from the John E. Polk Correctional Facility. He said "Yes sir" twice during the five-minute hearing in a small jailhouse courtroom.

Judge Mark Herr set formal arraignment for May 29 and agreed to seal some of the case file.

"It was a very standard procedure. A not guilty plea was entered. We have an arraignment set for the 29th. We'll attend to a bond motion between now and then," O'Mara told reporters after the hearing.

He said he chose not to ask for bail immediately because it might "only arouse the fervour" around the case.

Zimmerman, 28, whose father is white and mother Hispanic, has received death threats and was in hiding for weeks. Arrested Wednesday, he could face life in prison if convicted.

His booking sheet listed him at 5'10" (1.78 meters) and weighing 185 lbs. (84 kgs), with two tattoos, one of theatrical masks on his left arm and one with the name "Christina" inside a cross on his chest.   Continued...

George Zimmerman (C) and his attorney Mark O'Mara (R) makes his first appearance on second degree murder charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in courtroom J2 at the Seminole County Correctional Facility in Sanford, April 12, 2012. REUTERS/Gary W. Green/Pool
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