George Zimmerman Claims Judge is Biased, Wants Him Removed

Judge Kenneth Lester
Judge Kenneth Lester

George Zimmerman wants a new judge to preside over his murder trial in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, arguing the current judge is biased against him.

Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, filed a motion to disqualify Florida Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester, who revoked Zimmerman’s initial bond, then set a substantially higher bond.

“Mr. Zimmerman has a reasonable fear that he cannot get a fair trial or a fair stand-your-ground hearing by this court,” O’Mara wrote. “The court makes gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman’s character; advocates for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes; offers a personal opinion about the evidence for said prosecution; and continues to hold over Mr. Zimmerman’s head the threat of future contempt proceedings.”

Lester’s actions have led Zimmerman to believe that the judge is biased against him and that he will not receive a fair trial, O’Mara wrote.

O’Mara wrote separately that the decision to seek a new judge came “after lengthy discussions among the defense team and with George.”

Lester revoked Zimmerman’s $150,000 bond last month after the state prosecutor accused Zimmerman and his wife of lying to the court about their financial assets during his initial bond hearing to obtain a lower bond.

A few weeks later during a second bond hearing, Lester set Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million but wrote a strongly worded order in which he said Zimmerman lied and may have been preparing to flee the country once out on bail. He rejected the notion put forth by O’Mara, that Zimmerman lied about his finances because he didn’t trust the system.

“The defendant tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so,” Lester wrote in his ruling. “This increased bail is not a punishment. It is meant to allay this court’s concern that the defendant intended to flee the jurisdiction and a lesser amount would not ensure his presence in court.”

O’Mara argued that Lester’s claim that Zimmerman might have fled while out on bail was unsubstantiated. “The court makes sweeping generalizations about Mr. Zimmerman based on limited information and disregards the evidence that contradicts those conclusions.”

Zimmerman has since posted bail and is hiding at a safe house in Seminole County.

O’Mara argues that Lester, in his prior statements about the strength of the prosecution’s case, showed bias toward convicting Zimmerman. “The court spent a lot of time and a lot of words crafting an order that was harsh and morally indignant in tone yet wholly fails to address one of the most important criteria in fashioning reasonable bail … the compelling evidence showing that the defendant has a viable, credible claim of self defense.

“Mr. Zimmerman fears that the court has already decided that he is not worthy of belief regardless of the type of proceeding or the corroborating evidence that would support his testimony,” O’Mara wrote.

It’s not the first time Zimmerman’s lawyers have asked for a new judge. In April, Zimmerman’s lawyers filed a motion asking Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who was initially assigned to the case, to remove herself because of an alleged conflict of interest.

Zimmerman’s family had first approached Recksiedler’s husband, attorney Mark NeJame, about representing Zimmerman. He declined and referred them to O’Mara.

In a separate development, Lester ordered the release of statements made by a person identified as “witness 9.” In already released statements, the witness suggests that George Zimmerman is prejudiced and has a racial bias.

Lester ordered that recorded phone calls made by Zimmerman while he was in jail should be released. Several calls between Zimmerman and his wife discussing their finances have already been released.