Zimmerman's Lawyers Want State to Pay Expenses

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 27, 2013 1:42 PM

The lawyers who helped acquit Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, are now petitioning the state of Florida to pay for their legal expenses, claiming they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars under state law.

Lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara explained Monday that he was preparing to file a motion with the district court requesting compensation for $200,000 to $300,000 for Zimmerman's defense, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Why should the state have to pay for Zimmerman's legal expenses?

Florida Law Requires Repayment

O'Mara says he plans to file a motion with Judge Debra S. Nelson for the state to pay him and the rest of Zimmerman's legal team for all of the expenses they incurred during trial.

While this may seem unusual, this kind of motion is actually quite common when a defendant is acquitted. Under Florida law, a defendant who is acquitted is not liable for any taxable costs or fees.

These taxable costs or fees can include:

  • Hiring fees and costs for expert witnesses,
  • Travel expenses,
  • Depositions, and
  • Trial visual aids.

Florida law also requires the state to pay for these costs if the defendant is found to be indigent (i.e., too poor to afford a defense).

Some Notable Expenses

While $200,000 to $300,000 may seem steep, it is fairly easy to run up such a bill in a high-profile case like Zimmerman's. As a reminder, here are some of the bigger expenditures in the case:

  • 3D fight animation. Judge Nelson allowed O'Mara to present a 3D recreation of the fight that led to Martin's death, and the state will likely have to repay Zimmerman's team for the cost of the animation.
  • 911 call experts. Even though the prosecution was not allowed to present expert testimony about the notorious scream on the 911 call, Zimmerman's legal team is entitled to be paid back for any depositions, expert consultations, or travel expenses logged in preparing to counter that testimony.
  • Miscellaneous expenses. The George Zimmerman Defense Fund reported as of April that it had spent nearly $60,000 on case-related expenses, including fees for obtaining documents, reports the International Business Times.

If Judge Nelson grants O'Mara's motion for a refund, then the combined expenses will need to be submitted to Florida's Judicial Administrative Commission. The Commission has the power to challenge the expenses -- something O'Mara says he expects them to do.

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