Entries in Kenneth Lester (2)


George Zimmerman’s Lawyer Gets Judge Removed

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images(DAYTONA, Fla.) -- A Florida appeals court Wednesday ordered Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to disqualify himself in George Zimmerman’s trial for the alleged murder of Trayvon Martin.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona, Fla., voted 2-1 that Lester should be disqualified. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, had appealed to the court in early July for Lester to be removed.

His motion to disqualify the judge came in response to Lester’s order setting Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million. In it Lester wrote that  Zimmerman had “flaunted the system” and practiced “deception upon the court” after it was revealed that Zimmerman and his wife Shellie had not told the court he had two passports and tried to hide the amount of money their defense fund had raised. They were also accused of speaking in code in reference to their assets.

In a 17-page document O’Mara accused Lester of having a bias against Zimmerman, writing that “the court made gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman’s character, advocated 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.”

Fifth District Court Judges C. Alan Lawson and Jay P. Cohen concurred that O’Mara’s motion was “legally sufficient” in describing his fear that Zimmerman could not get a fair and impartial trial. The third judge, Kerry I. Evander, dissented, writing that he “didn’t believe the order ‘crossed the line’ so as to require the granting of his motion.”

The Office of the Florida Attorney General argued that there was no evidence to suggest that Lester would not give a fair trial, writing that “the judge was simply giving Petitioner a well deserved tongue lashing for allowing others to mislead the court about his passport and his financial situation.”

A spokesman told ABC News that the Attorney General’s Office would not appeal the decision. The Office of Angela Corey, the special prosecutor on the case, had no comment.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. He is out on bail awaiting trial, and will next appear in court in October for a regularly scheduled docket hearing.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


George Zimmerman Defense Moves to Disqualify Judge

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman, accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, filed a motion on Friday to disqualify the judge that will preside over his case, citing his fear that he will not be given a fair trial.

Zimmerman, via his attorney, Mark O'Mara, filed the 17-page document with the Seminole County Circuit Court. The motion is a response to Judge Kenneth Lester's July 5 order that set $1 million bail for Zimmerman and claimed that Zimmerman had "flaunted the system" and practiced "deception upon the court."

It was the second time Lester granted Zimmerman bail. Lester revoked a previous $150,000 bail in April after prosecutors presented evidence that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had available by speaking in code on phone calls. Prosecutors added that Zimmerman initially lied about the existence of a second passport.

O'Mara recently tried to appeal to the judge that Zimmerman was confused and fearful back in March when the alleged deception occurred. In a second bond hearing in June, O'Mara reiterated that Zimmerman had voluntarily turned himself in to the court and now was completely open regarding his financial ability.

Lester, however, in that July 5 bail order, remained skeptical of Zimmerman's motives and expressed irritation at being lied to. He accused Zimmerman of manipulating the court and even suggested that if Zimmerman had the opportunity he would have fled prosecution.

In Friday's motion, O'Mara wrote that Lester's order was indicative of a bias against Zimmerman, saying that the judge's statements were "disingenuous, self-serving manipulations."

"In said order, the court made gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman's character, advocated 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," the motion read.

O'Mara asserted that the judge and court "departed from its role as an impartial, objective minister of justice" and should therefore be removed from the case.

The state's attorney's office prosecuting the case said it planned to release a formal statement next week, but "objects to the defendant trying to disqualify Judge Lester."

Zimmerman is currently out of jail on bail and will remain in a safe house in Seminole County, Fla., until the trial begins.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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