A Florida appeals court has granted George Zimmerman a new judge in his trial, agreeing that the original judge’s remarks put the 28-year-old man in reasonable fear of a fair trial.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on February 26, reports CNN. Zimmerman’s attorneys asked for the removal of Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester after he used questionable language in a bail order.
The language allegedly disparaged Zimmerman’s character and also threatened the possibility of future criminal proceedings. Ultimately, the Fifth District Court of Appeals agreed, forcing Lester to step down in the case.
Lester originally revoked George Zimmerman’s first bond of $150,000 after he learned that Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, did not disclose over $100,000 in donations they received from the public. The Circuit Judge then set a new bail of $1 million in July.
ABC News notes that the second bail order is the one Zimmerman’s attorneys protested against, saying that:
“[Lester] made gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr. Zimmerman’s character; advocated for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes; offered a personal opinion about the evidence for the prosecution; continued to hold over Mr. Zimmerman’s head the threat of future contempt proceedings, and ultimately set a bond at $1,000,000.”
The court agreed with the remarks issue, and the fact that Lester, using his remarks, “created reasonable fear in Mr. Zimmerman that the court is biased against him, and, as a result of this prejudice cannot receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing by the trial court.”
The Office of the Florida Attorney General argued against Zimmerman’s lawyers, saying that there was no evidence supporting their claim that Zimmerman would not get a fair trial with Lester. They wrote that “the judge was simply giving Petitioner a well deserved tongue lashing for allowing others to mislead the court about his passport and his financial situation.”
But Fifth District Court Judges C. Alan Lawson and Jay P. Cohen Agreed with George Zimmerman’s attorney, while the third judge, Kerry I. Evander disagreed, saying that he “didn’t believe the order ‘crossed the line’ so as to require the granting of his motion.”
When George Zimmerman next faces the court in October, it will be with a new judge.