George Zimmerman may be a free man, but his lawyers say their dealings with the state of Florida regarding his murder trial aren't finished. Zimmerman's defense attorney Mark O'Mara said Tuesday at a news conference that Florida should pay all of Zimmerman's legal costs, because he was found not guilty.
Zimmerman was acquitted in July of all charges related to the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Under Florida law, a defendant who has been acquitted cannot be held liable for court costs or any expenses incurred while he was detained in custody, as long as a clerk or judge consents to the refund. According to Florida Statute 939.06, "the payment of such costs, when audited and approved according to law, shall be refunded to the defendant." The request for reimbursement is submitted to and paid out by the Justice Administrative Commission.
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The total tab for Zimmerman's defense includes expenses for things like expert witness fees, travel, depositions, transcripts and exhibits. Florida law allows acquitted defendants to recoup expenses, not counting lawyers' fees. These are expenses that someone has to pay no matter what -- for example, expert witnesses must receive compensation for their time, travel and expertise -- but the idea behind statute 939.06 is that defendants who are found to be "not guilty" shouldn't necessarily be on the hook for those costs.
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Although they plan to ask for between $200,000 and $300,000, O'Mara said, "We're not going to get it. Even though we're going to ask for it, the amount that we'd most likely get is significantly less." O'Mara says the total cost of Zimmerman's defense was around $2 million, but he says he has not yet received "a penny" in fees.
Most of the fees related to Zimmerman's defense have been paid with donations he's received through the Zimmerman Defense Fund. According to the fund's website, "As of Jan. 2, 2013, the George Zimmerman Defense Fund has raised $314,099.07." According to O'Mara, any money reimbursed by the state of Florida will go toward reimbursing the fund and taking care of any expenses that haven't been paid.
According to the Zimmerman Defense Fund website, gzdefensefund.com, here are a few of the expenses O'Mara and his team are trying to recoup:
- $95,000 -- Bail bond: Zimmerman's bail was set at $1,000,000. According to the defense fund, Zimmerman paid $5,000 with money he raised before the establishment of the defense fund, and the defense fund paid $95,000.
- $61,747.54 -- Living/household expenses: Zimmerman and his wife were living out of state, but when a second bond was set, he was then required to stay within Seminole County, Florida. The defense fund says constantly switching hotels (for safety purposes), before finally finding a secure place to rent, cost the couple thousands of dollars per month.
- $56,000 -- Security
- $40,647.64 -- Law firm support & infrastructure: According to the defense fund site, the O'Mara Law Group started out as a very small practice, but in taking on Zimmerman's case, the group acquired additional support staff. While many worked for free, taking on additional staff created extra expenses related to paying for additional office space, computers, new phones, expanded IT infrastructure and support.
- $35,588.07 -- Case-related expenses: Many expenses were paid for directly by the law firm and have already been reimbursed by the defense fund. This amount includes funding for additional licenses for case management software, additional security for the law offices, website hosting, miscellaneous computer hardware and data storage, and fees for obtaining documents. It also includes payment for court recorders and experts on behalf of the defense.
- $7,924.22 -- PayPal and fund management fees: This includes fees for donations made via PayPal and monthly fees required by the fund manager service.
- $3,201.04 -- Other expenses: Includes postage, courier fees, GPS monitoring, office supplies, and "every now and again a pizza for the interns, who work for free."
Tonight on HLN After Dark, our experts present both sides of the story and debate whether the taxpayers of Florida should pay for these expenses related to Zimmerman's defense. What do you think? Weigh in on Facebook and Twitter and join the debate tonight at 10 p.m. ET on HLN!