Judge to stay on in George Zimmerman case

Zimmerman charged with murder in death of Trayvon Martin


SANFORD, Fla. – The judge in the George Zimmerman case will not remove himself from the case, ruling that the defense motion asking him to step down was "legally insufficient."

In a statement signed and released Wednesday morning, Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. wrote, "The Defendant's Verified Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge is hereby denied as legally insufficient."

Zimmerman's attorney, former Local 6 legal analyst Mark O'Mara, said no decision has yet been made on whether to appeal Lester's order to the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Daytona Beach. If an appeal is made, it would delay a motion O'Mara is drafting, seeking to allow his client to live outside Seminole county while on bond.

"We presented the motion. I think the motion was sufficient on its face. He made his decision. We're going to review it and make a determination about whether or not to appeal it or accept it," O'Mara said.

If an appeal is filed, he said, the case "stays in limbo, unfortunately, for a while. We will be seeking a stay of all other matters pending until the appellate court decides, if we decide to appeal."

Zimmerman sought the judge's recusal, arguing Lester was biased against Zimmerman, suggesting his client could be arrested or held in contempt for standing silently by at a bond hearing while his wife allegedly lied about the couple's financial state.

In a motion, O'Mara, wrote, "the Court (made) gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman's character."

The motion also said that "the Court has created a reasonable fear in Mr. Zimmerman that this Court is biased against him" and "he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing."

The state attorney's office objected to Zimmerman's motion. Prosecutors argued the judge showed no undue bias, and since Lester had twice freed Zimmerman on bond, any fear of prejudice was clearly not reasonable.

Lester also wrote that although he has to legally accept Zimmerman's allegations as true, they were still insufficient for him to step down.

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed while walking through a Sanford neighborhood in February. 

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.

Meanwhile, Lester will hear another case involving Florida's "stand your ground" law, which has come under fire in the wake of Martin's death.

Lester will hear the case of 43-year-old Anita Smithey, who claims she shot her husband while he was raping her in their Oviedo home on May 4, 2010.

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