Blog: Reporters must pay for restrooms at Zimmerman trial?

11:36 PM, Jun 11, 2013   |    comments
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Covering a trial can be challenging for reporters trying to get the inside story and getting comments from attorneys but paying to use the restrooms?

That's exactly what is happening in the trial of George Zimmerman down in Sanford, Florida. This may be the trial of the year but one of the trials of the reporters covering it is a bit unusual.

According to USA Today and NBC affiliate WTLV in Jacksonville, Seminole County and the City of Sanford did not provide facilities for reporters covering the Zimmerman trial.

Well, sometimes you just have to be creative. It seems a satellite truck operator decided to rent a portable restroom facility for $7,000 a month and parked it in the media parking lot.

There are separate restrooms for men and women and the sinks are said to have marble countertops, so it's not as rustic as it may sound.

But no money, no restroom?

Reporters have to shell out a $500 flat rate per month to use the facility.

The satellite operator insisted he is not trying to make money off the restrooms. Well, then why not open it for free?

We don't know how many reporters or their media outlets paid for the privilege but know that  there are 150 reporters in the overflow area and total media crush of about 500.

There are several estimates on how long this trial will last but it will surely go for at least six to eight weeks, and likely longer. And most media outlets pay for reporters' parking and hotels when they are on assignment out of town but for restrooms?

Now I have covered several trials in Cleveland and Akron over the past few years, including the Anthony Sowell trial in the late spring and summer of 2011 -- the man convicted of murdering 11 women in his Imperial Avenue house -- and former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora's 10-week trial down in federal court in Akron January through March of 2012.

Both garnered local and national attention and both courthouses had media areas -- and bathrooms on every floor open to all.

My biggest challenge during both of those trials was getting some bacon for breakfast every morning. Even traveling to and from the court wasn't difficult and I slept at home every night.

But I digress.

In the Zimmerman trial, the media and the public have also been provided with a set of rules, many of which are obvious.

The first on the list? You cannot bring weapons of any type, including firearms, ammunition, fireworks and other explosive devices, onto the courthouse grounds.

That includes bladed instruments, batons, clubs, tasers, stun guns, chemical sprays, contraband, and any other hazardous materials.

Other prohibited items musical speakers, loud speakers, or sound amplifiers of any kind, chairs, coolers, backpacks, signage affixed to wood, piping or metal, tents, alcoholic beverages, portable generator, cooking grills or open fires.

That pretty much rules out camping out there.

And inside the courthouse you cannot have all of the above nor scissors, box cutters, razor blades, letter openers, screwdrivers, awls, wrenches, metal nail files, large safety pins, needles, bottles of liquid to include water and other drinks, ice picks, fish hooks...(fish hooks? well, it is on a lake), brass knuckles, corkscrews, wine bottle openers, metal forks or utensils, laser pointers, large flashlights, aerosol cans, pepper spray, handcuff keys or anything else that may be used as, or fashioned into, a weapon.


Know that the City of Sanford does provide free Wi-Fi so you can use your computer. On Tuesday night, the city held a Snake Awareness proram and there's an Alligator Awareness program next Tuesday night.

The city has 53,570 residents and sits on the shore of Lake Monroe.

And lest we forget why Sanford is in the news -- On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, was fatally shot by Zimmerman, 28, a member of the Neighborhood Watch in Sanford.

The incident immediately garnered national attention, and subsequent investigations were conducted by the FBI and the office of the Florida Attorney General.

On April 11, 2012, Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey filed 2nd degree murder charges against Zimmerman and jury selection in his trial is underway.

Now, reporters will be too busy working to get to see much of the city but there's a Seven-Eleven just down Bush Boulevard from the courthouse if they are hungry or thirsty and there's even a restroom there, I hear.


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