George Zimmerman to ask for $200,000 from Florida for court costs
Florida law says an acquitted defendant can ask a judge for money back from the trial
CNN News Wire | 8/27/2013, 12:52 p.m.
Lawyers for George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, plan to ask the state to reimburse Zimmerman for at least $200,000 of expenses incurred during his trial.
Under Florida law, an acquitted defendant cannot be held liable for court costs or any charges while detained in custody, as long as a clerk or judge consents to the refund.
The costs may include money spent for expert witnesses, travel expenses and fees for transcripts.
“We’re probably going to ask for somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000,” lead attorney Mark O’Mara said.
But, O’Mara said, the chances are slim they’ll receive anywhere near that sum.
“We’re not going to get it. The case law here is quite limited. Even though we’re going to ask for it, the amount that we’d most likely get is significantly less.”
Such a request is fairly standard in the state. Casey Anthony, who was charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter, filed a similar request after her acquittal in a Florida courtroom in 2011.
While the final accounting is still being tabulated ahead of the formal request, the highest expense in the Zimmerman trial were the expert witnesses.
“We had to bring in four to five experts on the voice issue. That was as much as $75,000 to $100,000,” O’Mara said.
Transcripts ran approximately $20,000, he said.
However, under state law, any attorney’s fees would be exempt from such a refund.
O’Mara estimated the fees he would ordinarily have charged run approximately $1 million — fees that don’t include the amount that would have been charged by co-counsel Don West, nor others on the team that put together the successful defense.
“I haven’t gotten one penny in fees,” O’Mara said. “I do have an agreement with George that if he comes into money, I would get paid.”
Despite being currently unemployed, Zimmerman could potentially get income through other sources such as writing a book, or any money resulting from a defamation lawsuit against NBC News for airing an inaccurate editing of Zimmerman’s call to non-emergency dispatchers the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26, 2012.
In all, O’Mara estimated the total cost of defending George Zimmerman to be around $2 million.
Zimmerman was acquitted by a six-person jury in July on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
The high-profile case sparked a heated nationwide discussion of race as well as debate over Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Martin was an unarmed black teenager, and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, called police after spotting Martin walking through the neighborhood. He followed Martin, against the directions of a dispatcher, and argued that he shot the 17-year-old after he and the teenager fought because he feared for his life. The prosecution said Zimmerman profiled Martin because he was black, followed him and shot him during a confrontation.
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.
Vivian Kuo | CNN