Zimmerman's attorney asks higher court to remove judge from case



SANFORD, Fla. - George Zimmerman's attorneys said a judge is too biased to stay on the case in which Zimmerman is charged with killing Trayvon Martin. And since Judge Kenenth Lester Jr. won't recuse himself, defense attorney Mark O’Mara wants the Fifth District Court of Appeal to kick Lester off the case.

O'Mara said Monday he expects the court to act quickly, but said it could take several weeks for a ruling.

"It's their timeline. As an 'extraordinary writ' they do try and get to it quickly, but that quickly could mean several weeks," said O'Mara.

Officials said the state and/or the judge generally has 20 days to respond to the appeal and an additional five days to mail it.  Zimmerman's legal team then has another 10 days to respond and five days to mail it.

Lester denied O'Mara's motion asking for the recusal earlier this month. O'Mara argued then and is continuing to argue to the appeal court that language Lester used in setting Zimmerman's $1 million bond showed bias. Lester said Zimmerman tried to manipulate the system by hiding more than $100,000, presumably to get a lower bond. Lester also said Zimmerman did nothing when his wife told the court the couple had no money.

“There's a real question as to whether Judge Lester may have stepped over bounds,” O’Mara said.

 “Is this intentional on your part to try to slow down proceedings?” Channel 9’s Daralene Jones asked O’Mara.

“No, if I didn't think and if my client didn't think that the order granting bail had within it evidence or suggestions that we might not get a fair hearing, we would be moving forward right now,” he responded.

“It’s on the fence as to whether the Fifth District Court of Appeal is going to order Judge Lester removed from the case,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer. “However, I wouldn't be surprised because of the language we saw in the judge's order setting bond.”

If Lester is kicked off the case, Judge Debra Nelson or Judge Alan Dickey could take over.  Both have experience with high-profile cases.

Sheaffer said Nelson might be better for the state, because she's conservative and fairly predictable. He said it would be a toss-up with Dickey.

“Judge Dickey: Very, very smart, but not so predictable and it could actually be a benefit to actually the state or the defense,” said Sheaffer.

O'Mara also said the defense plans to try to get the case dismissed under traditional self-defense and not Florida's "stand your ground" statute.

In the meantime, O'Mara said he expects to file a motion asking that Zimmerman be allowed to leave Seminole County for safety reasons, because he can't afford to keep paying for security.

O'Mara said there's only about $50,000 left in Zimmerman’s legal fund and because of that, he will likely have to file for indigency.

However, O'Mara said he's not going to file any new motions in the case until there's a ruling from the appellate court.