Zimmerman defense fund dwindling; Fla. may pay

George Zimmerman, left, and attorney Don West appear before Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester, Jr. Friday, June 29, 2012, during a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank

(CBS/AP) ORLANDO, Fla. - The attorney for the former neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin said Monday that George Zimmerman is almost broke despite having raised more than $250,000 since last spring.

Mark O'Mara, who is defending Zimmerman against a second-degree murder charge in the fatal February shooting, said a lack of money in Zimmerman's legal defense fund is complicating the defense's desire to move the case ahead quickly.

"The money's not coming in all that strongly right now," O'Mara told reporters. "I think that as we move forward we're probably going to have to consider indigency for Mr. Zimmerman unless something else happens with more donations and whatnot and then it puts it on the state's shoulders to actually fund that defense."

O'Mara said the fund had about $60,000 in it, with $20,000 in bills that need to be paid.

O'Mara said his client remains in hiding and has spent tens of thousands on security. Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, continue to live in an undisclosed location somewhere in Seminole County.

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In setting Zimmerman's second bond, trial Judge Kenneth Lester mandated that he remains in the same county as the shooting, which O'Mara said "is the most dangerous county for him to be in."

He said they are both living "like a hermit" and are not working for fear of their safety.

O'Mara didn't rule out a future motion to have the bond terms modified, and allow him to reside out of state.

"I want him safe, wherever that might be," O'Mara said. "If it's out of state — so be it."

O'Mara also said Monday he believes that the facts that will be argued in the case fall more under traditional self-defense, not under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force — rather than retreat — if they believe their lives are in danger.

O'Mara said looking at the case through traditional self-defense circumstances is appropriate because the facts suggest his client couldn't retreat from a beating he was receiving from Martin.

Zimmerman's attorneys said last week that they would use the "stand your ground" law.

"The facts don't seem to support a 'stand your ground' defense," O'Mara said.

Still, he said Monday that the defense team will try to get the case dismissed during a "stand your ground" hearing.

"My concern with even calling it a 'stand your ground' hearing is we need to be more realistic," O'Mara said. "I've said from Day 1 we need to wait until all the evidence comes out."

O'Mara said he thinks people have a perception about the law that isn't accurate.

"People look at 'stand your ground' and immediately think somebody's standing there with deadly force — be it a gun or a weapon — and having the opportunity to back up but not having the need to under the statute," he said. "I think the evidence in this case suggests that my client was reacting to having his nose broken and reacted to that by screaming out for help.

"He wasn't in position where I think there was any suggestion where he could retreat, which he is allowed to do under the statute."

If a judge were to side with Zimmerman in a pretrial hearing under the state's self-defense statute, the murder charge would be dismissed immediately. O'Mara said that he would not have to invoke any part of the "stand your ground" statute under the strategy he plans to use.

"I think the facts seem to support that though we have a stand-your-ground immunity hearing, what this really is, is a simple, self-defense immunity hearing," the defense attorney said.

University of Miami law professor Tamara Lave said O'Mara's shift may signal that he thinks his case for self-defense is solid even without the special provisions afforded by "stand your ground."

"'Stand your ground' makes it easier to prevail under self-defense theory than the law that existed beforehand," Lave said. "I think what he's saying is, his case is so strong that he doesn't need 'stand your ground.'"

Before O'Mara can address the "stand your ground" hearing, he is filing an appeal this week of Lester's recent decision to stay on the case.

O'Mara said it could take several weeks for the Fifth District Court of Appeals to rule.

"It's their timeline," O'Mara said. "They'll try to get to it quickly, but it could take several weeks. I still think he's a good judge and very fair ... but there's a real question of whether Judge Lester stepped over his bounds."

Zimmerman was initially granted $150,000 bond and released in April. But the judge revoked that bond in June after prosecutors presented evidence that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had, including $135,000 raised by then from a website for his legal defense. He was later freed on a new $1 million bond.