Zimmerman attorneys call judge biased, request 2nd replacement - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Zimmerman attorneys call judge biased, request 2nd replacement

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Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. presides over a bond hearing for George Zimmerman. (Source: CNN) Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. presides over a bond hearing for George Zimmerman. (Source: CNN)
George Zimmerman appears in court with his lawyers for his second bond hearing on June 29. (Source: CNN) George Zimmerman appears in court with his lawyers for his second bond hearing on June 29. (Source: CNN)

SANFORD, FL (RNN) - Attorneys for George Zimmerman have asked the court to disqualify a judge from presiding over his trial after Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. wrote a chastising order to set the former neighborhood watch captain's bail.

Zimmerman, 28, is facing second-degree murder charges after he admitted to shooting and killing Trayvon Martin, 17, in February.

Defense attorneys wrote in a motion to disqualify that Lester's latest order to set bail proved it would be impossible for Zimmerman to get a fair, impartial trial with the judge.

Zimmerman was out on a $150,000 bail when it was discovered he had access to $123,000 during his bond hearing and a second passport, which he had not surrendered. He had not disclosed either fact during his hearing.

On July 5, Lester set Zimmerman's bail at $1 million.

The defense pointed to the language in the July 5 order, which included Lester stating that "it appears to this court that the defendant is manipulating the system to his own benefit."

"The court completely ignores Mr. Zimmerman's voluntary disclosure and subsequent surrender of the donated funds to his lawyer before their existence was discovered by the court and disregards his otherwise exemplary conduct on bail prior to bail being revoked," attorneys argued in the motion to disqualify.

Further, attorneys said Lester's suggestion that Zimmerman may face perjury or contempt charges for lying about how much money he had access to showed "the court departed from its role as an impartial, objective minister of justice."

"This is tantamount to instructing the state that Mr. Zimmerman should be prosecuted for this offense," attorneys said.

They pointed to similar language from a June 1 bail hearing in which Lester expressed surprise because Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, hadn't been arrested after recorded calls from jail showed she knew about the funds.

Shellie Zimmerman was arrested June 12 for perjury.

"While there may not be any actual connection between the court's suggestion that Mrs. Zimmerman be prosecuted and her eventual prosecution, it is certainly reasonable for Mr. Zimmerman to think there may be," attorneys said. "The court is biased against him."

The motion didn't mention Zimmerman's second passport, which he claimed he had lost, except in response to Lester's claim that Zimmerman was likely preparing to flee with money from his defense fund to evade prosecution.

Attorneys pointed out the required GPS monitoring, a condition set on him at his first bond hearing, made a plan to flee highly unlikely if not impossible.

Lester is the second judge to take on the Zimmerman case.

In April, Judge Jessica Recksidler recused herself after disclosing her connection to a CNN legal analyst.

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