News24

Judge removed in Zimmerman trial

2012-08-30 09:00

Miami - A Florida court ordered on Wednesday that the judge in the trial of George Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watchman charged with the murder of black teen Trayvon Martin, be removed from the case.

Defence lawyer Mark O'Mara had asked that Sanford District Judge Kenneth Lester be removed from the case, saying in a written request that the court had "already formed a negative opinion" of Zimmerman.

The court ruled in favour of the defence, but said "many of the allegations in Zimmerman's motion, standing alone, do not meet the legal sufficiency test" to remove a judge from a case.

Still, "a motion is legally sufficient if it alleges facts that would create in a reasonably prudent person a well-founded fear of not receiving a fair and impartial trial", the court added in its ruling.

The move came in response to Lester's setting Zimmerman's bail at $1m in June. The judge had accused Zimmerman of manipulating the court by concealing funds he had raised online.

Zimmerman, a 28-year-old volunteer night watchman, shot dead Martin, aged 17, on 26 February after tracking him through the gated community of Sanford. The Martin family has said he racially profiled the teen.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, saying he acted in self defence after he was attacked by Martin, who was not carrying a weapon and had no criminal record. He faces life in prison if convicted.

The case sparked nationwide outrage, mainly over authorities' initial reluctance to press charges against Zimmerman, who insists that he acted within his rights under Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.