Appeals court: Judge in Trayvon Martin case must step down

Posted on: 9:00 pm, August 29, 2012, by , updated on: 07:15pm, August 29, 2012

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

(CNN) — A Florida appeals court granted George Zimmerman’s request for a new judge Wednesday, saying the original judge’s remarks put Zimmerman in reasonable fear of a fair trial.

Zimmerman is charged with murder in the February 26 shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman’s attorneys wanted Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester removed, saying language he used in a bail order disparaged their client’s character and held over his head the threat of future criminal proceedings.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed, and Lester must now step down.

There was no immediate response to the ruling from either Lester, prosecutors or Zimmerman’s attorneys.

Lester revoked Zimmerman’s original $150,000 bond after learning Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, failed to disclose more than $100,000 in donations from the public.

The judge then set a new bail of $1 million in July, and it was the language in that bail order that Zimmerman and his lawyers took issue with.

The court agreed with Zimmerman’s attorneys 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 he 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 appeals court also agreed that Lester’s 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.”