Lawyer: George Zimmerman to ask Florida to cover some legal costs

7:48 AM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer found not guilty in the February 2012 shooting death of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, will ask the state of Florida to cover some of his legal fees, a lawyer's spokesman says.

Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lawyer, plans to file a motion to recoup between $200,000 and $300,000 in legal fees from the state of Florida, Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for Zimmerman's legal team, said Monday evening.

"That is a ballpark estimate," Vincent said. "It will be a few weeks before everything is all together and we're in a position to file that motion."

A Florida statute allows defendants who win their cases to file such motions, Vincent said. More than a month after Zimmerman was acquitted, his attorneys have now had the time to begin preparing their motion.

"It's a pretty standard motion for a case that the defense won," Vincent said.

Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon during a confrontation in Sanford, Fla., after deeming Trayvon suspicious. The case galvanized the civil rights community and many members of the public, who rallied around the teen's family and insisted Trayvon had been racially profiled. After the verdict, the NAACP, Color of Change and other civil rights organizations have pressed Attorney General Eric Holder to file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

The motion to recoup legal costs would be based on a Florida statute that declares that a defendant who has been acquitted is not liable for costs associated with his or her case and that anything paid would be returned, if approved by a judge or clerk, via the state's Judicial Administrative Commission, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The money Zimmerman's team hopes to recoup includes only legal expenses such as hiring courtroom experts, court reporter fees for witness depositions and some travel expenses.

No Florida law allows attorneys to recover their fees from the state, Vincent said.

In O'Mara's case, the fee would have been more than $1 million. He bills $400 an hour and worked 40 hours a week for 16 months on Zimmerman's case, Vincent said. Don West, a co-counsel on the case, bills $350 an hour.

"I believe to this day, they (O'Mara and West) have not been paid for any of their legal fees," Vincent said.

The Sentinel reported O'Mara has been paid nothing by Zimmerman.

The lawyer told the news organization that he will submit the costs to a judge for certification, but he anticipates that the Judicial Administrative Commission will challenge many of the expenses.

It remains to be seen how Zimmerman's legal fund defense, which collected several thousands of dollars for his defense, will work now that some of those fees will be paid by the state. It's also unclear whether Zimmerman's attorneys will be paid for their time in the future.

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