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UPDATE: In a surprise move, Sanford city commissioners voted Monday to reject the resignation of Bill Lee, the local police chief who temporarily stepped aside last month to help soothe tensions over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
CNN reports that the city had announced earlier in the day that it had reached a separation deal with Lee that would have taken effect at midnight and provided the departing police chief with a severance package.
But at a special meeting called to discuss the issue, the city commission voted 3-2 to decline Lee's resignation. Two of the commissioners argued that Lee was a fine public servant who was the victim of the media circus that has surrounded the case. "This is not right. Just on a human level" said Commissioner Patty Mahany, adding that Lee is "one of the finest police officers in Florida" and that calls for his resignation were "solely political."
The third vote, meanwhile, came from Mayor Jeff Triplett, who suggested the panel should wait until an investigation into Lee's handling of the case is completed before deciding his professional fate. "I'm not ready to have him come back and run the police department, but I don't know if I'm ready for this either," the mayor said.
The Miami Herald reports that Darren Scott, the police captain who has been serving as acting police chief since Lee stepped aside last month, will stay on in that role while the city continues its search for an interim police chief. In the meantime, Lee will remain on salary while on leave from his job, according to the New York Times.
The same city commission who voted to reject Lee's resignation Monday issued a vote of no confidence in him last month, criticizing how his department handled the investigation into Martin's death. That vote was also decided 3-2, with Triplett likewise serving as the decisive vote.
At the time, there were widespread demonstrations calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Marting in what he claims was self-defense. Sanford police opted against arresting Zimmerman at the time, although a special prosecutor later found enough evidence to charge him with second-degree murder.
Monday, April 23: George Zimmerman was released on bail at around midnight Monday after posting bond.
The neighborhood watch volunteer will need to wear a tracking device that will allow authorities to keep tabs on his whereabouts anywhere in the United States while he awaits trial for second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. CBS News reports that Zimmerman is expected to leave Florida.
Under the terms of his release, Zimmerman was forced to surrender his passport and must abide by a strict 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. He is also not permitted to use or possess firearms, and has to check in with authorities every three days.
Meanwhile, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara went on CBS This Morning Monday to do some damage control after Zimmerman offered an unexpected apology to Trayvon's parents during Friday's bail hearing, which was later rejected by the family's attorney. O'Mara said that Zimmerman wouldn't have done it had he known that the family felt the timing of the apology wasn't right, the Associated Press reports.
Saturday, April 21: Now that it’s official and, as expected, George Zimmerman will be getting out of jail soon, his defense team is worrying about where they can keep such a high-profile client safe from the media and curious onlookers, reports the Associated Press. Defense attorneys with experience in high-profile cases say Zimmerman will probably leave Florida. Photographers are already waiting outside the jail, but Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, has said it would likely be a couple of days before his client is released.
In an earlier story, the AP talked to legal experts who say O’Mara made a smart move by questioning a state investigator during a routine bail hearing. He forced the investigator to testify that he didn’t know who was the first to throw a punch as well as acknowledge there was no evidence to contradict Zimmerman that he was walking back to his car when the altercation took place. Still, the investigator did say there was no evidence Martin was slamming Zimmerman’s head to the ground right before he fired the fatal shot. The prosecutor insists no one should be making premature conclusions: “You have not heard all the evidence,” Bernie de la Rionda said.
Friday, April 20: A Florida judge on Friday said he would grant bail for George Zimmerman, clearing the way for the neighborhood watch volunteer to be freed from jail pending his trial for second-degree murder.
The Associated Press reports that Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said he would grant the defense's motion to release Zimmerman but that he would not be freed Friday because further discussions are needed about the terms of the release, including whether he would be allowed out of the state.
Bail was set at $150,000. Under the conditions of the bond, Zimmerman will not be able to have any contact with Trayvon Martin's family and won't be able to posses firearms.
Zimmerman took the stand during the morning hearing, offering an apology to Martin's parents. "I wanted to say that I am sorry for the loss of your son," he said, adding that at the time of the shooting he did not know that Trayvon was 17 years old and unarmed.
Thursday, April 19: Trayvon Martin's parents turned down a request from George Zimmerman for a meeting on Thursday, one day before the 28-year-old was due in court for a bond hearing.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton confirmed that Zimmerman did indeed make the request, but explained that they declined it given its timing. "We believe Zimmerman's request at this time is very self-serving some 50 days later, the day before his bond hearing," they said, according the Tampa Bay Times. "He had a Web page—never apologized there. Had the voicemails we've heard—never apologized then. So, we feel that you all can conclude for yourselves what motivations there are."
Zimmerman is expected to request to be released on at his Friday hearing. The Associated Press explains that he has a decent chance of being released pending his trial.
Wednesday, April 18: The Florida judge tapped to preside over George Zimmerman's trial recused herself on Wednesday over her ties to a defense lawyer who declined to defend the 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, the Associated Press reports.
Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler disclosed late last week that her husband works in the same law firm as Mark NeJame, who was approached by Zimmerman about representing him after his original lawyers quit earlier this month. NeJame declined, but said he gave Zimmerman a short list of alternatives, including Mark O'Mara, who Zimmerman ultimately chose as his legal counsel shortly before his arrest.
NeJame has since been hired as a CNN legal analyst.
Judge Kenneth M. Lester Jr. was named as the new judge. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Lester has served 15 years on the bench and has previously handed out the death penalty.
Monday, April 16: Lawyers representing more than 20 media outlets on Monday asked a Florida judge overseeing the trial of George Zimmerman to unseal the court file and give the public a look at the details of the second-degree murder case against the 28-year-old neighborhood-watch volunteer.
Among those behind the push are the New York Times, the Associated Press, and CNN, as well as newspaper publishers Gannett and the McClatchy Company.
The judge who presided over Zimmerman's brief court appearance last week agreed to a request by the defendant's lawyer, Mark O'Mara, to seal the court record (and State Attorney Angela Corey did not object). But lawyers for the media outlets say the judge did not go through the steps necessary to show that keeping the file closed prevents a "serious and imminent" threat to the administration of justice.
"Just because a case gets a lot of publicity does not mean that papers should be sealed," Times vice president George Freeman told his own paper.
You can read the nine-page filing here.