Prosecutors recently released close to 150 jail phone calls of George Zimmerman, some which may indicate that Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, knew about Zimmerman's online donations, which he failed to disclose to the judge at his first bond hearing. If this information is true, it raises several important issues in Zimmerman's defense. First, it could result in an ethics violation for O'Mara. And second, it could lead to a conflict of interest between O'Mara and Zimmerman.
In Florida, according to the rules of ethics, a lawyer has a duty of candor to the court. This means that a lawyer cannot sit back and let a person testify to the court under oath when the lawyer knows that the person is lying. According to the taped conversations, Zimmerman told O'Mara about his attempt to transfer $37,000 from his online legal defense site. Yet, at the hearing, So, O'Mara would have known that Zimmerman had access to at least that much money. Zimmerman's wife testified that the bond hearing that the couple was broke. Zimmerman's attorney never brought up the online account at that hearing. Zimmerman's wife has since been arrested for perjury.
The conversation between Zimmerman and O'Mara has not been recorded. Generally, all conversations between a criminal defense attorney and his client are protected by the attorney-client privilege. Yet, O'Mara is now being questioned about the substance of such a privileged conversation. In fact, O'Mara told the Miami Herald that he didn't know about the money and he couldn't imagine forgetting about the figure $37,000. This may also be an ethics violation because O'Mara is commenting on what Zimmerman did or didn't disclose to him. This question of what O'Mara knew and when can potentially cause a conflict of interest between him and Zimmerman. A lawyer cannot be so concerned with keeping himself out of trouble that he has to choose between protecting his own interests or those of his client. If this happens, a lawyer has a duty to withdraw from representing a client and allow that client to obtain counsel that has no conflict of interest.