George Zimmerman to sell own autograph as fundraising measure
Florida man accused of murdering teenager Trayvon Martin moves to raise money on his personal website ahead of trial
Richard Luscombe in Miami, guardian.co.uk, Thursday 29 November 2012 21.31 GMTt
George Zimmerman, the former neighbourhood watch captain accused of murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin during a confrontation at a Florida housing estate nine months ago, is to begin selling autographs to bolster his depleted defense fund.
Zimmerman, 29, has burned through almost all of the $340,000 he is thought to have raised since his arrest in April, his website says, leading to an appeal for more donations from the public in exchange for a personally signed thank-you card.
"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 through the end of the Self Defense Immunity Hearing and/or trial," a statement on the site says.
"Priority for the funds will be as it has always been, 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."
Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O'Mara, who recently said he would consider having his client declared indigent if more money was not forthcoming, has so far received no payment for his services, the website states. Donations that were once running at $1,000 a day have dried up, O'Mara has said.
The move to begin selling signatures marks a new strategy for Zimmerman, who has been in hiding since he was freed on bail in July. Next month he will take back control of his defence fund, which has been independently managed since O'Mara assumed responsibility for it April.
A photograph on his website shows a printed card with a black front featuring Zimmerman's name, and below a printed "Thank you for your support" message inside is a handwritten signature, "Your friend, George Zimmerman." The site states the identity of all donors will remain confidential.
"Once the fund is under new management, there will be more affirmative fundraising efforts," it says.
"These efforts will include an updated gzdefensefund.com website, a disclosure of how funds have been spent, and regular updates regarding how future funds will be allocated."
Zimmerman has always insisted he acted in self-defence when he shot and killed Martin, 17, during their encounter at the Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford on 26 February.
Martin, a black teenager who was visiting from Miami, was walking home to the house of his father's friend with a soft drink and sweets he bought at a local shop when the fatal confrontation occurred. Zimmerman has claimed Martin attacked him first and broke his nose, although prosecutors say the defendant pursued the boy after being told by a police dispatcher to desist.
A decision by the Sanford police department to release Zimmerman without charge on the night of the shooting caused outrage and prompted numerous rallies and marches until a special prosecutor appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott announced the murder charge in April.
A trial is scheduled to take place next June unless O'Mara can get the charge dismissed at a hearing under Florida's controversial stand-your-ground law, by which a judge can determine the use of deadly force is justified if the defendant acted in fear of his life or serious injury.
The judge in the case, Kenneth Lester, was removed in August after making what O'Mara said were "disparaging and gratuitous" comments about his client. Lester had earlier revoked Zimmerman's original bail after ruling that the defendant and his wife Shellie, who herself faces a perjury charge, had lied about their personal finances.
Circuit judge Debra Nelson, Lester's replacement, denied a motion from prosecutors last month to issue a gagging order against the defence, stating it was not necessary to ensure a fair trial.