The Daily Gamecock

George Zimmerman deserves lawful benefits from verdict

Florida will respect acquittance with financial compensation

It’s Florida law that the state foots the bill of any acquitted defendant’s legal expenses, and guess who wants to cash in on that? You guessed it: It’s America’s latest sweetheart, George Zimmerman.

If anyone needs a refresher after the deafening national coverage, Zimmerman was acquitted of a murder charge just last month in the incredibly controversial trial of Trayvon Martin’s death.
As expected in any highly publicized trial, it was chock full of implications, this time regarding racism, gun laws and an overwhelming public belief early in the story’s progression that Zimmerman was guilty before any real evidence had been presented. Combine these volatile elements and you’re bound to get a violent reaction come judgment time, and that we did. Once Zimmerman was found not guilty, there was a massive outcry, chastising the justice system for failing young Martin and his family.

Naturally, things have settled down quite rapidly since then, though it looks, presumably much to Zimmerman’s chagrin, he’s being pulled back into the limelight for what is essentially a non-issue.
As much as people may refuse to accept it, the jury could not be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Zimmerman was guilty. As a result, we’ve got a lot of people who consider him a man that got away with murder.

Can you imagine how they feel now that the state of Florida is about to pick up the tab for his legal defense? Probably livid, but for the sake of the justice system’s integrity, they must and should pay for his defense expenses.

If there’s any issue with this law, it’s the conundrum it creates when it comes to prosecuting the haves versus the have-nots. Keep in mind that if a defendant is acquitted, taxpayers must pay for everything but the attorney’s fee. This includes everything in the legal defense, including expert witnesses, which can cost a pretty penny.

This financial risk may lead the state to prosecute the poor more frequently than the wealthy. I can’t imagine the state would want to be pay for the legal defense of someone who brings in an incredible amount of witnesses. Furthermore, the additional pressure on the state if someone is acquitted means there’s an undue emphasis on conviction rate. When we’ve got defense attorneys chasing benign cases simply to improve their conviction rates, the justice system is flawed.
Nonetheless, George Zimmerman deserves for his bill to be paid, because the law is still in effect. Those that are upset to hear he is now getting a check written from the state should remind themselves that our justice system, among the best in the world, found him not guilty.

The jury of six, after reviewing the evidence presented in court and, presumably, with a better understanding of the case than any of us, found him to be not guilty, so we must respect his rights. To do anything but would compromise the integrity of our justice system.