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Trayvon killer in apology to family

A neighbourhood watch guard who killed an unarmed black teenager apologised to the teenager's family at a hearing where he sought release from jail ahead of his trial.

The case involving the killing of Trayvon Martin has become a national sensation because police waited 44 days before detaining the watch volunteer, George Zimmerman.

Civil rights leaders claimed if the black teenager had been white, Zimmerman would have been arrested and charged the night of the shooting. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic of Peruvian descent.

Zimmerman took the witness stand and told Trayvon Martin's parents and a national TV audience "I am sorry for the loss of your son."

They were his first public comments since fatally shooting the unarmed teenager. A judge set Zimmerman's bail at 150,000 dollars (£93,512) and his lawyer said he could be free in several days.

Authorities and lawyers need to work out arrangements to allow Zimmerman to live outside Florida as he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge because of threats made against him and his family.

Zimmerman claims Trayvon attacked him after he started following the teenager on February 26 because he thought the 17-year-old looked suspicious walking around the gated neighbourhood. Zimmerman has said he was punched in the nose and his head was slammed against the pavement.

Wearing a charcoal suit, white shirt and grey tie - but also shackled and appearing to have on a bulletproof vest - Zimmerman took the witness stand to deliver a short statement to Trayvon's parents, who were in court.

"I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said.

Lawyers for the teenager's parents said the apology was disappointing. "This was the most disingenuous and unfair thing I've seen," said Natalie Jackson, one of the lawyers for Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. "This was the most unmeaningful apology."

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