George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who killed Trayvon Martin, plans to ask the state of Florida to cover $200,000 to $300,000 of his legal expenses, his attorney told the Orlando Sentinel Monday evening.
Because Zimmerman was acquitted, state law requires Florida to pay all his legal costs, minus the biggest one: the fee that goes to his lawyers.
That includes the cost of expert witnesses, travel, depositions, photocopies, even that animated 3-D video that defense attorneys showed jurors during closing argument that depicts Trayvon punching Zimmerman.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said Monday that he would soon prepare a motion, asking Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson to authorize the payments.
That motion, he said, "is in the works."
His office is still collecting numbers, he said, but he estimated the request would total $200,000 to $300,000.
That would be on top of the estimated $902,000 that public agencies already have spent on Zimmerman's five-week second-degree murder trial that ended July 13.
The 29-year-old Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter by a six-member Seminole County jury for shooting Trayvon, an unarmed black high-school junior from Miami Gardens, in Sanford Feb. 26, 2012. Moments before the fight and shooting, Zimmerman had called police, describing the teenager as suspicious.
His acquittal prompted demonstrations across the country, including violence in Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif.
Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and her assistants claimed Zimmerman was a murderer because he had "profiled" Trayvon as a criminal, pursued and killed him. But Zimmerman told Sanford police that Trayvon punched him in the nose, knocking him to the ground, then climbed on top of him and began banging his head against a sidewalk.
Other evidence, including one key eyewitness, corroborated key parts of his account.
For months leading up to the trial, Zimmerman lived in hiding, had no job and lived off donations to his legal defense fund. At one point, he tried to solicit donations by promising each donor a handwritten, signed thank-you note.
Several times in the months leading up to the trial, O'Mara said that defense funds were so low he might be forced to ask the judge to declare Zimmerman indigent, and thus, require the state to pay his legal bills. But that never happened.
This upcoming motion, however, would have the same effect.
It would be based on Florida Statute 939.06, which states that a defendant who has been acquitted is not liable for any costs associated with his case and, if he or she paid anything, they would be due a refund, if approved by a judge or clerk.
The money would come from the Judicial Administrative Commission, the state agency that pays the non-lawyer legal expenses of indigent defendants.
O'Mara said he would ask the judge to certify the costs he submits. He then expects the commission, which is commonly referred to as JAC, to challenge many.
"That's where the fight is," he said.
O'Mara has been paid nothing by Zimmerman, said the defense attorney who bills at a rate of $400 an hour, but he has kept billing records.
O'Mara gave a ballpark estimate of the number of hours he had worked on the case: 40 hours a week for 16 months.
At $400-an-hour, he would be owed slightly more than $1 million.
That does not include any of the work done by co-counsel Don West, who bills at $350 an hour, or O'Mara's partner, Lorna Truett.
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