George Zimmerman has asked that the state of Florida to reimburse him for up to $300,000 for expenses he incurred while successfully defending himself in court after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has a good chance at recouping these losses. Florida law requires the state to cover some legal costs for defendants who are acquitted.
For anyone who was appalled by the verdict, the idea that George Zimmerman will now be collecting taxpayer funds in order to reimburse his expenses will not go over well.
As appalling as I found the Zimmerman verdict to be, I was not upset by this news. Rather, I was thrilled to hear that the state of Florida has a law like this in place.
When I was 21 years old, I was arrested and tried for a crime I did not commit. I was refused legal counsel from the state despite the fact that I would be unemployed and homeless just three weeks after my arraignment. I lost two years of my life working 18 hours a day in order to pay for my $25,000 in legal fees (more than $45,000 in today’s money) for something that I did not do.
When it was ultimately determined that I was not guilty, I was sent on my way without so much as an apology.
Like many people, I was outraged at the idea that George Zimmerman might be collecting taxpayer money, but I am not upset that a law like this is in place. When a defendant is truly innocent of any crime, it is only right that the state reimburse his or her expenses, especially if the state has refused to provide legal counsel in the first place.
Twenty years after my trial, I remain shocked that this was not the case. The state of Massachusetts disrupted by life for more than two years and imposed an enormous cost upon me, and there was no means for me to gain restitution for their error.
While it sickens me to think that George Zimmerman will likely be collecting money from the state to cover part of his legal defenses, these laws need to exist. There are defendants like myself who did nothing wrong, whose actions did not result in the loss of human life, who suffer financially for years as a result of a horror on the part of police officers and prosecutors.
I wrote about this issue and my personal situation in greater detail two years ago. I said it then, and I’ll say it again now:
I want my $25,000 back, damn it.