George Zimmerman’s Judge Rejects Motion to Step Down

Judge Kenneth Lester
Judge Kenneth Lester

George Zimmerman’s judge will not step down because the motion seeking to disqualify him is “legally insufficient,” the judge wrote in his order.

Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. on Wednesday denied a motion by Zimmerman’s defense team that sought to disqualify the judge because of alleged bias.

The motion accused Judge Lester of making “gratuitous, disparaging remarks,” among other alleged misdeeds, when he set Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million in July.

So how did the judge reach his ruling?

It may seem a bit strange, but under Florida’s Rules of Judicial Administration, the same judge who is accused of bias gets to decide whether he is in fact too biased to preside over the case in front of him.

In the motion asking George Zimmerman’s judge to step down, Florida’s rules required Judge Lester to “determine only the legal sufficiency of the motion.” Zimmerman’s motion failed that test, Judge Lester wrote in his ruling.

But the judge did not further explain why he found the motion insufficient. That’s likely because Florida’s rules explicitly state: “No other reason for denial shall be stated, and an order of denial shall not take issue with the motion.”

Zimmerman’s motion had accused Judge Lester of making opinionated remarks about evidence and “advocat[ing] for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes” in his July 5 order setting bail.

In that order, Lester found Zimmerman “tried to manipulate the system” in allowing his wife Shellie to misrepresent their finances. Shellie Zimmerman was arrested for perjury and has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors had opposed the motion asking George Zimmerman’s judge to step down. Judge Lester’s granting bail and other privileges to Zimmerman show the judge was not biased, prosecutors had argued.

Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, can appeal Judge Lester’s ruling, but has not yet decided whether to do so.