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Zimmerman bail up to $2M, preliminary hearing postponed

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A preliminary hearing to determine whether Howard Philip Zimmerman will be tried in the death of his girlfriend has been delayed until at least next week.

Zimmerman appeared Tuesday in District Judge Mel Fujino’s courtroom in Waimea, but the hearing was postponed while Fujino considers Zimmerman’s request for a public defender.

Fujino also increased his bail from $350,000 to $2 million.

Zimmerman, of Bellevue, Wash., remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center. He is charged with one count each of second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening and second-degree criminal property damage.

Fujino scheduled a June 7 hearing, where he will determine whether Zimmerman qualifies to a public defender and also whether to revoke the bail under the state’s ‘extreme depravity’ clause.

Zimmerman could face life in prison without possibility of parole, under the enhanced sentencing rule for a crime that was ‘unusually heinous or cruel.’

Zimmerman, who appeared in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, told Fujino he cannot afford a private attorney, even though the public defenders office rejected his application.

Attorney Nona Lawrence said a person typically must be found to be indigent to qualify for a public defender, and Zimmerman was disqualified largely because he owns property in Washington state.

Zimmerman told the court he does own a home valued at $342,000 and was earning $65,000 a year working as a hardware engineer. However, he said he has monthly expenses that include child support and mortgage.

“I have no way to access funds. It would be nearly impossible to procure funds,” he said. “It’s like getting blood from a turnip at this point.”

Fujino urged Zimmerman to consult with private attorneys before next week’s hearing.

Once the public defender and bail issues are resolved, the preliminary hearing will continue in District Court in Waimea. Prosecutors are expected to call at least seven witnesses at the preliminary hearing.

If Fujino determines the state has cause, Zimmerman will face trial in Circuit Court.

Zimmerman, 46, is accused of killing his girlfriend, Susan Brockert, 44 and a mother of two, in their guestroom at The Fairmont Orchid.

Resort security went to the couple’s room the night of May 23, after other guests reported hearing screaming. Police reported a staff member saw Zimmerman strike Brockert on the head.

An autopsy revealed Brockert, also from Bellevue, Wash., died from multiple blunt force and sharp force trauma to the head and neck.

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