Judge Kenneth R. Lester, Jr. (pictured), the judge handling the Trayvon Martin case, is refusing to step down after lawyers representing George Zimmerman asked him to recuse himself several weeks ago, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
As NewsOne previously reported, Zimmerman’s defense team filed a motion requesting that Judge Lester step aside because they believed he is ‘biased’ against their client. In his defense order, Mark O’Mara argued that Judge Lester made “gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Zimmerman’s character.”
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The order also states that the judge is holding the potential of future contempt charges over their client’s head. “In doing so, the Court created a reasonable fear in Mr. Zimmerman that this Court is biased against him and because of this prejudice he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing by this Court,” O’Mara claims in the order.
Judge Lester did not comment on the charges of unfairness. He simply wrote that the motion was insufficient, according to The Sentinel.
Here is how several attorneys interviewed by The Sentinel broke down Judge Lester’s refusal to step aside:
“I’m surprised he didn’t excuse himself,” said Orlando defense lawyer Richard Hornsby after Lester’s ruling. He said O’Mara should absolutely challenge the ruling.
“My opinion is that he has no choice,” Hornsby said. “His motion [to recuse Lester] was so extensive. I think they are all in.”
An appeal would go to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Hornsby said O’Mara has 10 days to decide. If he appeals and loses, “then O’Mara has to deal with it and move forward,” he said.
In a bond order, Lester described Zimmerman as a manipulator who was gaming the criminal justice system by hiding $130,000 and keeping a secret passport. The judge wrote that, if not for court-ordered satellite monitoring, Zimmerman might well have fled.
He also suggested Zimmerman could face a contempt charge, something the judge himself would be required to level – not prosecutors. Winter Spring attorney Randy McClean said Lester may have gone too far with that last assertion.
“That one statement is one that Mr. O’Mara could hang his hat on,” McClean said.
Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, were accused of misleading the court over the amount of money they possessed during a bond hearing where his bail was set for $150,000 in April. Prosecutors claim he and his wife had more than $135,000 between them that had been raised via a special website. It turned out to be true.
Consequently, Judge Lester ordered Zimmerman back to jail and raised his bond to $1 million, which he was able to pay.
He is currently staying in an undisclosed safe house awaiting trial for his Feb. 26 shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.