MIAMI — A Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who shot an unarmed black teen to death on Friday requested that a new judge preside over his murder trial, accusing the current judge of bias against him.
The State Attorney’s Office quickly objected to the motion filed by attorneys for George Zimmerman, and said it would file a formal response early next week.
The 28-year-old has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming that he acted in self-defense when he shot dead Trayvon Martin, 17, during a confrontation in the Florida town of Sanford in February.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester revoked Zimmerman’s initial $150,000 bail after the defendant and his wife Shellie were accused of lying about funds they had raised through a website and set a higher bail at $1 million.
Zimmerman posted bail and is currently living in a safe house in Florida.
“The court has created a reasonable fear in Mr Zimmerman that this court is biased against him and because of this prejudice, he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing by this court,” Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara wrote in his motion to disqualify the judge.
“The court makes gratuitous, disparaging remarks about Mr Zimmerman’s character; advocates for Mr Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes; offers a personal opinion about the evidence for said prosecution and continues to hold over Mr Zimmerman’s head the threat of future contempt proceedings.”
On its website, Zimmerman’s legal team said it had filed the motion “after lengthy discussions among the defense team and with George.”
The motion marked the second time Zimmerman has asked for a new judge in the racially charged case that has sparked nationwide protests.
His lawyers had asked for Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who was initially assigned to the case, to be disqualified, citing a potential conflict of interest with her. The request was granted and the case was turned over to Lester.
O’Mara said Zimmerman “fears that the court has already decided that he is not worthy of belief regardless of the type of proceeding or the corroborating evidence that would support his testimony.”
Zimmerman told police he had been tracking Martin, whom he had viewed as suspicious, and shot and killed the teenager after being assaulted by him.
Witnesses reported seeing a scuffle but it is not clear who threw the first punch or what ensued.
The case caused nationwide consternation, mainly over authorities’ initial reluctance to press charges against Zimmerman, who insists that he acted within his rights in self-defense under Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
Photo via AFP