George Zimmerman Will Ask Taxpayers to Cover Up to $300,000 of His Legal Bills

Stand Your Ground isn't the only state law set to stir controversy in the George Zimmerman case. The lesser-known Florida Statute 939.06 requires the state to pay all of a defendant's expenses if he/she is acquitted of all charges.

Zimmerman's defense team has been tallying up the cost of expert witnesses, documents, and travel and is set to ask taxpayers for up to a $300,000 refund. That would be on top of the $900,000 prosecutors already spent on their failed case.

Zimmerman's main attorney, Mark O'Mara, has been putting together the motion asking for the state to cover the costs.

Although the statute guarantees a refund to an acquitted defendant, a judge has to approve all the expenses. Some of O'Mara's requests are sure to provoke a challenge from the court, including an expensive 3-D animation the defense team produced of Zimmerman's fatal confrontation with unarmed Miami teen Trayvon Martin.

"That's where the fight is," O'Mara tells the Orlando Sentinel, referring to the individual expenses.

O'Mara claims he hasn't been paid by Zimmerman for his 16 months of work on the case, which would tally to more than $1 million in legal fees at his usual $400-per-hour rate.

Although Zimmerman raised thousands of dollars from supporters, his defense fund often ran dry during the trial to the point that O'Mara considered declaring him indigent and asking the state to cover his defense costs.

That didn't happen, but taxpayers will shoulder a hefty chunk of his fees now that he's a free man.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink