By Tom Brown
MIAMI (Reuters) - George Zimmerman's lawyer has launched a new website to raise money to pay for legal defense costs and living expenses for the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the Florida shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara established the website gzlegalcase.com over the weekend, saying he hoped to use it to address some of the controversy and "malicious misinformation" surrounding the racially charged case.
Zimmerman, 28, shot Martin, 17, in what Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic, said was self-defense on February 26 in the central Florida town of Sanford. Police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, leading to some civil rights demonstrations across the country. A special prosecutor later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty.
O'Mara said the site had been set up to help raise and accept funds online for Zimmerman's legal defense.
"During the legal proceedings Mr. Zimmerman is unable to work, and it is inappropriate for him to raise funds on his own behalf. Funds raised by our firm will be placed in a trust fund, to which Mr. Zimmerman does not have access, and will be used to fund his defense and pay for reasonable living expenses," O'Mara said in a posting on the new website. He did not elaborate.
O'Mara, who has told reporters his standard fee is $400 an hour, stirred controversy last week by disclosing that Zimmerman had raised about $200,000 in cash through Zimmerman's previous website. Days earlier, O'Mara had described Zimmerman as "indigent" during a bail hearing in which a judge set bond at $150,0000.
Zimmerman was released from jail last week and has moved to an undisclosed location.
Regarding the fundraising website, O'Mara wrote: "We understand that this is controversial, but Mr. Zimmerman deserves a fair trial, and mounting a defense is an expensive proposition."
O'Mara acknowledged it was "unusual for a legal defense to maintain a social media presence on behalf of a defendant."
The new site replaces the defunct therealgeorgezimmerman.com, which Zimmerman launched before he surrendered to police earlier this month.
O'Mara said one purpose of the new site was to speak out on his behalf.
"It is not in Mr. Zimmerman's best interests to speak publicly about this case, and as he has hired us to represent him, we feel part of our responsibility to our client is to provide a voice for Mr. Zimmerman, but only when it is appropriate to do so," O'Mara said.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham)
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