BLOOMINGTON — Kirk Zimmerman's bond on murder charges was reduced Friday, giving him $50,000 to help cover legal expenses.
Judge Scott Drazewski granted a defense request to return $50,000 of the $200,000 bond posted to secure Zimmerman's release in November 2015. The Bloomington man, now 60, is charged with killing Pam Zimmerman, his former wife, in November 2014.
Defense lawyer John Rogers argued that Zimmerman has appeared at all hearings during the three-plus years he's been on home confinement, tethered to an electronic monitoring device. The bond conditions require Zimmerman to be home unless he has an appointment with a doctor or his legal team.
That has kept Zimmerman from securing a job, said Rogers, adding the state's case against his client has generated an unprecedented volume of potential evidence and material that must be reviewed. The state's effort has been at taxpayers’ expense, he said, referring to the "millions of dollars the Bloomington Police Department and state has used to assemble a largely circumstantial case."
The defense needs the money to retain experts to challenge opinions from state experts, said Rogers.
"This is an expert-laden case," he said.
The defense disclosed in recent court filings that Myles Kitchen, an expert in automotive electronic systems, is a potential witness. A second expert provided opinions on cell tower data on Zimmerman’s behalf.
Assistant State's Attorney Mary Koll opposed the defense request, saying Zimmerman's initial bond was set at $5 million and reduced to $2 million after his arrest in July 2015.
The 45-years-to-life sentence Zimmerman is facing if convicted of murder makes him a potential flight risk, said Koll.
As an alternative to the bond reduction, Zimmerman could surrender on the charges, a move that would release his bond money, but force him to return to jail ahead of his April 1 trial, said Koll. The judge also could order Zimmerman's legal fees be paid from bond money held by the circuit clerk, Koll suggested.
In his ruling, Drazewski noted that Zimmerman has posted a substantial amount of cash and, with the exception of one unauthorized trip through a drive-thru restaurant, he has complied with what the judge termed "fairly onerous" bond conditions.
Drazewski pointed to another pending McLean County murder case in which the defendant, who also has a private lawyer, was given financial assistance from the county for legal costs. A private investigator funded by the county public defender’s office was authorized to assist Matt Isbell’s legal team after his lawyer told a judge he had run out of money.
Drawewski also set a Feb. 20 hearing on several pre-trial motions.
At that hearing, Rogers plans to ask the judge to reconsider a December ruling that FBI Special Agent Greg Catey be allowed to testify on cellphone tower data that allegedly puts Zimmerman's car near the 2100 block of East Washington Street on Nov. 3, 2014. The 53-year-old victim was found the following morning by an employee of her financial services firm on East Washington Street.
The state's theory of the murder centers around a contentious 2012 divorce between the couple after 20 years of marriage. Pam Zimmerman made no secret of the ongoing dispute she had with her former husband over money. Witnesses told police she feared what her ex-husband might do if she pressured him on money issues.
In emails and letters written shortly before her death, Pam Zimmerman demanded payment of her ex-husband's share of expenses — about $4,000 — for the couple's three children, all high school students at the time. Another trip to court to resolve the issue was a possibility, Pam Zimmerman told her ex-spouse.
The financial arrangements of the divorce may have derailed Zimmerman's plan to retire at age 55, according to the state's arguments. During the pending divorce, the victim questioned her former husband's plan to retire from State Farm ahead of paying college expenses for their children.
Pam Zimmerman's engagement days before her death and Zimmerman's reaction to that news also is expected to be part of the case.