Tuesday, August 27, 2013
George Zimmerman will ask Florida to reimburse $300,000 in legal expenses
I was just getting over George Zimmerman’s acquittal. I was ready to move on. After a long inhale, followed by a short exhale, I had released.
Now I’m mad again.
After lengthy diatribe regarding faults with Florida’s “stand your ground” law, I was willing to concede the jury’s verdict had more to do with the reading of the law versus embedded racism. My attention slowly shifted to the law versus the players. I began to see the acquittal of Zimmerman as a way to expose a wide range of problems with the criminal justice system.
I’m mad again. I‘m outraged. Yes, the wound just reopened.
After the turbulent aftermath of the jury’s decision to let Zimmerman walk after shooting Trayvon Martin, you would expect humility. You would expect Zimmerman and his star studded defense team to respect how the case dealt a deep blow to the nation’s communal consciousness.
Get this. Zimmerman is about to ask the state of Florida to reimburse him for as much as $300,000 in expenses he racked up to pay for his defense. Zimmerman and his attorney’s claim he deserves to be reimbursed because he was acquitted of second-degree murder.
Zimmerman's request is based on a Florida law that says a defendant who's acquitted isn't liable for costs associated with his or her case. It must be approved by a judge or a clerk. Attorney fees for the defense team wouldn't be part of the motion.
The request is troubling for multiple reasons. To begin, the amount of the request reveals the price tag to win a murder case. Zimmerman’s attorneys are seeking refunds for money spent on fees for expert witnesses and court reporters for depositions, travel and other expenses.
One is left pondering how much it took to defend Zimmerman. What is the actual cost after considering the legal team’s pro bono work in the case? How much does it cost to win when the odds are against you?
The Zimmerman case disturbs me due to how it unearths the influence economics plays in the court of law. The scale of justice s weighed not by the evidence, but by the cash placed on the scale.
But, it’s the request that troubles me in this situation. Zimmerman’s legal team has the right to demand reimbursement for expenses. It’s common practice in cases involving second-degree murder.
Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, told the Orlando Sentinel he's been paid nothing by Zimmerman but has kept billing records. O’Mara took the case on a pro bono basis, and now wants to be paid for he expenses he incurred to defend his client.
Can’t blame him for that.
With that being said, wouldn’t the wise move be to not push for the reimbursement? Wouldn’t it serve the purpose of national healing for Zimmerman and his attorneys to concede enough damage has been done? Couldn’t they simply walk away rather than forcing the state to pay for the trail?
Can’t we let this rest? Just because you can doesn’t make it right.
Finally, should state taxpayers reimburse attorneys for expenses related to those cases that the prosecutors can’t prove? Is this a form of punishment for bringing the case to trial? How are expenses applied when the accused is forced, due to economic restrictions, to use a public defender?
Conclusion? The system is designed to support those with massive resources.