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George Zimmerman (L) appears, along with his attorney Mark O'Mara, in front  of Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester for a bond hearing at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, June 29, 2012. Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degr
George Zimmerman (L) appears, along
with his attorney Mark O'Mara, at
a bond hearing June 29.
Seminole County Judge Kenneth Lester will continue presiding over the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, he said in an order issued Wednesday. Nearly three weeks ago, the defense in the case filed a motion for Lester to recuse himself, citing bias on his part as expressed in court order on bail for Zimmerman. The judge did not explain his decision not to stand down other than to say the defense's motion was "legally insufficient."

It is unknown whether the defense will appeal the decision. Such appeals rarely succeed.

Zimmerman is on trial for the February slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The 28-year-old Zimmerman shot the unarmed teenager to death after he had followed him into a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford. He claimed the boy looked suspicious and he only took his life in self-defense when Martin attacked him. Martin, who lived and attended high school in Miami, was temporarily staying with his father. The case drew national protest and international headlines after Zimmerman was not arrested or indicted. Ultimately, the governor assigned a special prosecutor to the case and, after three weeks of investigation, she filed the murder charges.

Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bail, a comparatively low amount Judge Lester granted based on testimony of Zimmerman's wife Shellie that the couple were practically broke and could not afford to put up collateral for a larger bond. It was soon revealed that, thanks to donations at a website Zimmerman had established, they had access to more than $130,000 and had moved it into different accounts, apparently hoping to hide it from authorities. They had communicated in a rudimentary code about this in jailhouse telephone calls that were, as is routine, recorded.

Upon learning this, the judge revoked bail, Zimmerman surrendered to authorities and was jailed, and a new bail hearing was held. It was the content of the judge's order granting new bail of $1 million that spurred defense attorney Mark O'Mara to seek a new judge.

In his order issued July 5, Judge Lester stated:

The Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so. [...] Contrary to the image presented by the Defendant not by evidence but only by argument of counsel, it appears to this Court that the Defendant is manipulating the system to his own benefit. The evidence is clear that the Defendant and his wife acted in concert, but primarily at the Defendant's direction, to conceal their cash holdings. They spoke in rudimentary code to conceal the true amount of money they were dealing with. [...] The Defendant also neglected to disclose that he had a valid second passport in his safe deposit box. Notably, together with the passport, the money only had to be hidden for a short time for him to leave the country if the Defendant [chose to] make a quick decision to flee.[...]

His lack of candor was not limited to representations made to the Court.

O'Mara claimed in his request for recusal that the judge had made "gratuitous, disparaging remarks" about his client. They certainly were disparaging, but hardly gratuitous given Zimmerman's and his wife's dishonesty. Shellie Zimmerman has been charged with perjury for her part.

Meanwhile, Zimmerman is seeking to get out of Seminole County. Staying there, with an electronic bracelet attached so court officials can monitor his whereabouts, is part of the condition of his bail. But O'Mara says the cost of security in the county is draining the defense fund more rapidly than would be the case if his client could live somewhere else.

An attempt to raise money by granting an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News did not generate the kind of response Zimmerman and his lawyer had hoped for. Moreover, that interview, with a remorseless Zimmerman proclaiming that the shooting was God's will, could be used against him in court when the trial does begin. That is not expected until early 2013.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 01, 2012 at 07:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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