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Taxpayers to pony up defense costs for ‘baseless’ Zimmerman circus

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Zimmerman Prosecution Team

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It will be interesting to learn, someday, exactly how much Florida spent in time and tax dollars, only to lose its case against George Zimmerman.

Now that Zimmerman has been acquitted of all charges, the state may have to pay up even more.

Florida statute 939.06(1) reads: “A defendant in a criminal prosecution who is acquitted or discharged is not liable for any costs or fees of the court or any ministerial office, or for any charge of subsistence while detained in custody. If the defendant has paid any taxable costs, or fees required … in the case, the payment of such costs … shall be refunded to the defendant.”

During a Saturday night press conference after the verdict, Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, told reporters he will pursue sanctions against the state for what he said were violations during the discovery process.

“The state has been responsible for a lot of the costs that we’ve incurred to acquit George Zimmerman, so we’re going to have a hearing on that as well,” O’Mara said.

Martin’s family, meanwhile, may decide to pursue a wrongful death suit in civil court, where the burden of proof is lower than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required in criminal cases.

“If someone believes that it’s appropriate to sue George Zimmerman, then we will seek and we will get [stand-your-ground] immunity in a civil hearing,” O’Mara said. “And we’ll see just how many civil lawsuits will spawn from this fiasco.”

The “fiasco” is the state’s prosecution of Zimmerman on charges some maintained from the very beginning were a waste time, resources and money.

“This is the weakest high-profile case I’ve ever seen,” Florida defense attorney Jose Baez, who defended Casey Anthony, said of the Zimmerman prosecution on Sunday’s “Good Morning America.”

Many Americans, from legal experts to laypeople, knew in the first days of the trial that the prosecution’s case for second-degree murder wasn’t that strong.

In fact, in the days after Martin’s February 2012 shooting death, neither the Sanford Police Department nor then-Seminole County State Attorney Norman Wolfinger filed criminal charges, believing Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense.

But after weeks of protests, national outrage and even comments from President Obama, the state appointed a special prosecutor, State Attorney Angela Corey of Northeast Florida’s 4th District, to pursue charges against Zimmerman.

Corey ultimately charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder on April 11, 2012, and brought prosecutors Bernie de la Rionda, John Guy and Richard Mantei in from the 4th Circuit to try the case in Sanford’s 18th Circuit.

“We charged what we had based on the facts of the case,” Corey told reporters after the verdict. “We chose to do it that way because we felt that everyone had a right to know everything about this case.”

We don’t actually have such a right, but we do expect our state attorneys’ offices to make decisions to prosecute based on evidence and not public opinion, or worse, politics.

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