Mark O'Mara said Tuesday that the state should pay all of George Zimmerman's legal costs because he was innocent — but then the defense attorney predicted it would pick up one-quarter of that.
At a news conference, O'Mara reiterated that he soon would ask a judge to sign an order, authorizing the state to cover $200,000 to $300,000 in Zimmerman's court costs.
That's what he estimates Zimmerman owes for legal expenses, not including lawyers' fees.
Zimmerman has paid some of that but still has unpaid bills. Those include such things as travel, deposition costs and expert-witness fees. That last category amounts to a small fortune. Zimmerman hired at least four experts just to testify about the screams heard in the background of a call to 911 the night he shot Trayvon Martin.
O'Mara conceded, however, that the state agency responsible for those costs, the Judicial Administrative Commission, is expected to dispute many of the bills he intends to submit and likely would end up paying $50,000 or less.
O'Mara called that unfair and suggested that Special Prosecutor Angela Corey should have to pay the total cost, plus Zimmerman's lawyers' bills — estimated at between $1 million and $2 million — because she filed charges against an innocent man.
Zimmerman is the 29-year-old Neighborhood Watch volunteer who was acquitted last month of murdering Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Feb. 26, 2012.
Corey never had enough evidence to charge Zimmerman with murder or manslaughter, yet she put him on trial, lost and "then wandered back to Jacksonville," O'Mara said.
"What he did that night," O'Mara said of Zimmerman, "was absolutely self-defense."
Although the trial is over, the case is not. Still pending are allegations by O'Mara that Corey's lead prosecutor, Bernie de la Rionda, hid evidence.
O'Mara said he will ask Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to fine Corey's office $70,000 or more for that. His math: He and co-counsel Don West spent more than 200 hours trying to track down evidence that the state's star witness, Rachel Jeantel, had lied under oath before the trial began and that Corey's office hid evidence found on Trayvon's cell phone.
O'Mara bills $400 an hour, West $350. At 200 hours, that would be $70,000 to $80,000.
The week before Zimmerman's trial started, that sanctions hearing began, but the judge postponed it, and it's not clear when it will resume. O'Mara said Tuesday that, when it does, he expects it to last a day or two and would feature on the witness stand Corey, de la Rionda and Assistant State Attorney John Guy.
In court filings, de la Rionda has argued that his office should not be sanctioned because it did no meaningful damage to Zimmerman and had provided what was required.
De la Rionda also has accused Zimmerman's lawyers of improperly delaying the release of defense evidence.
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