George Zimmerman Wants New Judge
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The former neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin filed an appeal Tuesday saying the judge in the case is biased against him and should be replaced.
George Zimmerman said in an appeal filed with the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach that he fears he would not be able to get a fair trial if Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester continues presiding over the case. Lester had previously rejected a motion filed by Zimmerman to disqualify himself.
Zimmerman cited Lester’s July order granting him a second bond in which the judge said the former neighborhood watch leader “flouted” the system by misleading the court about how much money he had available during a previous bail hearing. At the earlier bail hearing in April, Zimmerman sat silently while his wife testified by telephone that they had limited resources for bail. In fact, the Zimmermans had raised at least $135,000 in donations to a website set up for his legal defense.
Zimmerman’s original $150,000 bail was revoked after prosecutors presented the judge with jailhouse recordings of Zimmerman instructing his wife how to transfer the money raised from the website to different accounts. The second bail was set at $1 million.
“Generally a statement by the judge that he feels a party lied in a case indicates bias against the party,” Zimmerman said in the motion.
The order’s suggestion that Zimmerman could be charged with perjury or held in contempt also “creates a horrible chilling effect on the case,” the motion said.
Zimmerman fears that Lester might not believe his account of what happened at a “stand your ground” hearing in which a judge determines if the defendant was justified in using self-defense, the motion said. If the judge agrees with the defendant, then criminal charges are dropped and civil lawsuits can’t be pursued. If the judge disagrees with the defendant, then the case goes to a jury trial.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the February death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. Zimmerman pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self-defense.
All proceedings in Zimmerman’s case will be delayed until that court decides whether to hear the appeal.
The lack of an arrest for 44 days led to protests around the nation.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.