George Zimmerman, currently awaiting trial for second-degree murder after he killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, seems to be running very low on legal defense funds. So low, in fact, that Zimmerman is now offering autographs to raise money.
The New George Zimmerman Defense Fund posted a statement on its website soliciting more donations from supporters. The post promised thank-you notes from Zimmerman to all donors, whose identity would be kept anonymous.
“Each card will be personaly [sic] signed by George,” the post reads. “The identity of all donors will continue to be kept strictly confidential, and the envelope of the Thank You Cards will not have any reference to Mr. Zimmerman or the O'Mara Law Group.”
Though Zimmerman had previously raised roughly $140,000 for legal fees and living expenses, his official defense fund has come under new management as donations dwindle. The new fund managers seem to be looking for new and creative ways to raise money for Zimmerman.
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"Currently, the balance of the George Zimmerman Defense Fund is at its lowest, and new funds must be raised to support George's living expenses and legal costs," according to the post.
At the moment, Zimmerman is free awaiting trial after posting a $1 million bond. His initial defense hearing is scheduled for April, where he is expected to plead not guilty to second-degree murder, invoking Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The trial is expected in June.
Zimmerman has always maintained that his Feb. 26 shooting of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was motivated entirely by self-defense. At the time, Zimmerman was a member of his gated community's neighborhood watch, and he confronted the African American teenager believing he was acting suspiciously.
After a fight apparently broke out, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin. Soon after, Zimmerman was arrested, beginning the highly publicized and racially charged legal battle.
Zimmerman has had a troubled history with fundraising for his defense. He initially asked judges to lower his $1 million bail because he was unemployed, but he was raising money online on the side. When the judge learned of this, he shut down the fundraising website, refused to decrease bail, and placed Zimmerman in jail for 30 days until bond was posted.
Zimmerman’s new defense fund has promised better management and more transparency with the authorities than his previous efforts.
Zimmerman's lawyers say they have not been paid to keep costs down. According to the defense fund post, all funds raised will first go to support Zimmerman’s living expenses, and lawyers will only be paid if there is money left over from the funds after the trial.
"Priority for the funds will be as it has always been, in this order: to pay for George's living expenses, to pay for costs associated with the defense, and then -- only if funds remain -- to pay appropriate legal fees. That has always been the priority plan, and we reassert it now," according to the post.