• Appeals court grants George Zimmerman new judge


    ORLANDO, Fla. - Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester will be removed from the case against George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

    Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch leader, said in an appeal that he fears Lester is biased against him and he wanted a new judge to preside over his case.

    On Wednesday, Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled in his favor.

    "Although many of the allegations in Zimmerman's motion, standing alone, do not meet the legal sufficiency test, and while this is admittedly a close call, upon careful review we find that the allegations, taken together, meet the threshold test of legal sufficiency. Accordingly, we direct the trial judge to enter an order of disqualification which requests the chief circuit judge to appoint a successor judge," the court said in a newly released document.

    Earlier this month lawyers for Zimmerman filed the 28-page motion filled with reasons why Zimmerman doesn't believe Lester will give him a fair trial.

    The defense slammed Lester for repeated comments that Zimmerman was "manipulating the system" and for holding the possibility of more charges, including contempt of court.

    The defense also challenged Lester's neutrality after he called the state's case "strong" and characterized Martin as an unarmed juvenile while the judge ignored evidence that Zimmerman yelled for help for 40 seconds and that Martin broke his nose and bloodied his head with blows against concrete.

    WFTV's legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said this probably won't affect the case.

    "Certainly Judge Lester was obligated to pass upon the credibility of Zimmerman in ruling in the bond motion but there were a lot of gratuitous comments about George Zimmerman gaming the system and being subject to perhaps content of court that went beyond what the judge needed to say," said Sheaffer.

    On Zimmerman's website, attorney Mark O'Mara posted a short statement that said they expect a new judge to be assigned shortly.

    "It won't cause a delay. And we certainly won't run out of qualified judges to hear this case," said Sheaffer.

    Some names in the running as possible replacement judges include Circuit Judge Debra Nelson and Judge Alan Dickey.

    The court could also pull in a retired or senior judge from another circuit.

    Lester is the second judge to be removed from the case. Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself early on due to a potential conflict of interest.

    Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and says he acted in self-defense.

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