I learned a lot shocking things reporting "Zimmerman Family Values" for the new issue of GQ. But one really creeped up on me. From nearly the second the Florida neighborhood watchman shot to death 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, George and his family absolutely believed that a superstar attorney was his only chance to not wind up in prison forever. So it was inevitable that when Zimmerman was arrested and charged with murder, he had only one thing on his mind: how to pay for a private criminal defense lawyer. Knowing that his phone calls were being recorded while he was in jail pending bond (for a grand total of seven weeks) Zimmerman and his family spoke in code. They were all very grateful for the "support from SH".

You didn't need a crypto-analyst to figure out that "SH" was Sean Hannity. In July 2012, the Miami Herald reported that the anchor was believed to be financially backing Zimmerman's defense.

It was kind of true. But Hannity, himself, did not shell out. He got a bunch of other people to pony up. On his nightly TV show, the Fox News man would furrow his brow and rant about what would become of America if we lost the right to shoot and kill people who scare us. Then Hannity would, helpfully, mention TheRealGeorge Zimmerman.com, a website that the real George Zimmerman had set up after he shot Trayvon Martin to death. The site, helpfully, accepted PayPal.

Nearly half a million dollars double-clicked right in.

It makes you wonder: does seeming less guilty on TV make a killer seem less guilty in court? Does an expensive attorney help get him off, too?

The answer appears to be yes and yes.

A 2012 study showed that if a case before the US supreme court is covered by the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, the court's decision is twice as likely to mimic public opinion than if it is not reported on by those newspapers.

In 2011, a review by the US justice department showed that defendants represented by court-appointed lawyers are more likely to be convicted and/or receive longer prison sentences than those represented by private attorneys.

The reasons for this slaying of the US constitution's sixth and 14th amendments (right to legal counsel and right to due process) is rather obvious. In the last 50 years (since the supreme court unanimously reaffirmed defendant rights), the US incarceration rate has exploded more than 700%, while public defender budgets have plummeted about 600%. Today, the average amount of time a public defender spends with a client is 59 minutes in Atlanta, 32 minutes in Detroit and seven minutes in New Orleans. No surprise it's often a "meet 'em and plead 'em" process. More than 90% of criminal defense cases are now plea-bargained. Those that go to trial – well, no promises. In the last 25 years, at least 2,000 people have been wrongly convicted and collectively served more than 10,000 years in prison.

So what's an accused bad guy supposed to do? Follow George Zimmerman's lead!

Of course, not every accused felon can get Sean Hannity as his personal cheerleader/rainmaker. But anyone accused of anything can crowd-source and, uh, raise public awareness. Right now there are more than 4,000 legal defense projects seeking your money on GoFundMe.com. MaryJane, in Lansing, Michigan, is apparently fighting criminal cannabis growing charges. She says she needs weed because she has Lupus. She posts a photo of herself out-and-proud wearing a marijuana leaf necklace. She has raised $1,450. Gordon Smith, of Delmar, Delaware says that he has been falsely accused of domestic violence 24 times. He offers a video – "False Allegation Awareness: The Gordon Smith Story" – and he has raised $290. Darren Wilson, of St Charles, Missouri, has done a lot better. He has raised $433,000 … because maybe some day he'll be charged with something.

Wilson, of course, is the police officer who shot to death 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr, whose own family's GoFundMe site has raised $339,000. As officer Wilson's (currently inactive) fundraising sites promised: "All proceeds will be sent directly to Darren Wilson and his family for any financial needs they may have including legal fees."

If he ever has legal fees. Right now, all Darren Wilson has is a lot of money because he killed someone.

What did George Zimmerman spend his crowd-sourced payday on? A bail bond was $95,000, living expenses took $62,000, security ate up $56,000, and GPS monitoring (he had to wear an ankle bracelet pending trial) along with pizza for interns gobbled up $3,200. Zimmerman's attorneys did get $76,000.

Zimmerman still owes his lawyers another $2m. And he got acquitted in a state that convicts accused people nearly 90% of the time.

Do he and Wilson really deserve a million-dollar defense team any more than MaryJane and Gordon need whatever legal representation a grand total of $1,740 can buy?

Or is crowd-sourced funding just the real public defender in a time of recession, social media and criminal justice without much justice?

If you're accused of a crime, it clearly pays to do get a lot of attention committing it.