GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, the man charged with murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in a case that has reignited racial tensions in America, has apologised to the victim's parents for shooting the boy.
Mr Zimmerman (28) admits shooting the teenager in Sanford, Florida, in February, but denies murder, claiming he acted in self-defence under the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. Trayvon was not armed when he was killed.
Yesterday, as a judge set his bail at $150,000 (€115,000), Mr Zimmerman apologised to Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.
"I am sorry for the loss of your son," he said.
"I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit older than I was. I did not know if he was armed or not."
Mr Zimmerman had asked to meet Trayvon's parents ahead of the hearing but the family said it was not the right time.
At yesterday's hearing, members of Mr Zimmerman's family said that he was not a violent man, despite previous incidents.
In 2005, Mr Zimmerman had to take anger management courses after an undercover law enforcement officer accused him of attacking him as he tried to arrest Mr Zimmerman's friend. In another incident, a girlfriend accused Mr Zimmerman of attacking her. Mr Zimmerman's father, also George, told the court that his son was likely to "turn the other cheek" even when confronted.
Judge Kenneth Lester then set his bail bond at $150,000 but imposed certain conditions on the release, including that he submit to electronic GPS tracking, a curfew and to report periodically to authorities.
There was no indication of when Mr Zimmerman could go free. Prosecutors had argued that Mr Zimmerman, who is charged with second degree murder, should be held without bond, or no less than a million-dollar bond, until his trial.
Trayvon was shot dead on February 26. Mr Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer, followed the 17-year-old as he crossed a gated community after buying a packet of sweets at a nearby shop. He escaped arrest for weeks after local police initially decided against pressing charges, provoking a wave of protests from the black community. (© Daily Telegraph, London)