The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man charged with murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has launched a new website, Facebook and Twitter account designed to dispute misinformation and provide "a voice for Mr. Zimmerman."
"We understand that it is unusual for a legal defense to maintain a social media presence on behalf of a defendant, but we also acknowledge that this is a very unusual case," Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, wrote on the website, gzlegalcase.com.
O’Mara said that "social media in this day and age cannot be ignored," and that it would be “irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation” around his client's case.
Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s killing, was released last week from a Seminole County jail on $150,000 bond. Zimmerman admitted to shooting and killing Martin, 17, on February 26. He has maintained that he killed the teen in self-defense.
According to the website, the defense will use the online platforms to discourage speculation, discredit fraudulent websites created in Zimmerman’s name and provide the latest details of the case.
The website will also be used to raise funds for Zimmerman's defense.
“We understand that this is controversial, but Mr. Zimmerman deserves a fair trial, and mounting a defense is an expensive proposition,” the website said.
This latest social media offensive isn’t the first time Zimmerman has gone online to defend himself or to raise funds.
In early April, Zimmerman launched www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com.
"As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life," Zimmerman wrote on that site. With its creation, he wrote, he hoped to “provide an avenue to thank my supporters personally and ensure that any funds provided are used only for living expenses and legal defense, in lieu of my forced inability to maintain employment.”
The site included a pair of controversial photos, one featuring someone holding a sign that read “Justice For Zimmerman,” and the other showing the words “Long Live Zimmerman” spray-painted on the side of a black cultural center at Ohio State University.
Through the website, which has since been taken down, Zimmerman raised some $200,000. The announcement of the amount raised came just days after Zimmerman, his family and attorneys told a judge during an April 20 bond hearing that Zimmerman was broke and needed a low bond.
In light of the news of Zimmerman's fundraising efforts, the prosecutor in the case asked Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to raise his bond. Lester rejected the request.
The new website will also be used to address questions regarding the next steps in the case, including the request of documents during the discovery phase of the case, in which the sides exchange witnesses and other relevant evidence.
"We are concerned about the release of witness information to the general public, solely due to safety concerns. There has been a lot of animosity and emotions caused by incomplete and premature disclosure of information,” the site said. “Because those emotions still run so high, we want to do everything we can to protect the sanctity of the process and the safety of the witnesses. No good purpose will be served by a media frenzy directed at witnesses."
It continued: "We are delaying demanding the discovery until we can file motions to protect these witnesses. Once that is in place, discovery will flow to us, then the media and the public has access to it, under our rules."
Since its inception on Thursday, the Twitter account @GZlegalCase has gained almost 600 followers and sent more than 40 tweets. The tweets have referred followers to news stories about Zimmerman’s case, to the new Facebook page and to the website.