A Florida judge accused of making prejudicial remarks in the lead-up to the trial of gunman George Zimmerman, Jr. has declined defense attorneys’ request that he step down. Reuters is reporting that Judge Kenneth Lester deemed a complaint by Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara which accused Lester of bias in the case to be “legally insufficient.”
O’Mara filed a motion asking Lester to recuse himself in the wake of remarks made by the judge regarding his decision to raise Zimmerman’s bond and have him taken back into custody. Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin earlier this year, and his wife Shellie were both brought before the court when it came to light that the couple had conspired to lie about their finances, failing to reveal that donors had heaped more than a quarter of a million dollars into Zimmerman’s defense fund.
“Under any definition, the defendant has flouted the system,” Lester wrote in his July 5 ruling, pointing out that Zimmerman’s stories “change with each retelling.”
O’Mara accused Lester of bias in the wake of the ruling, claiming that statements the judge made were “gratuitous” and characterized them as “disparaging remarks.” Wednesday, the judge responded to O’Mara’s letter asking him to recuse himself.
The court is not allowed to comment on the accuracy of O’Mara’s allegations. By law, it must be assumed that the charges against Lester are true.
“The court is not permitted to deny the allegations supporting the motion as untrue, reject them as unfounded, or comment upon them at all,” he wrote.
Nonetheless, the factual basis of the accusations, he wrote, even if true, were not grounds to hand the case over to another judge. “The court finds the motion to be legally insufficient,” he said.
In his complaint, O’Mara attempted to paint the defendant as a confused young man who gave in to a “moment of weakness” when he chose to deceive the court. Judge Lester wrote that this has not been his impression of Zimmerman.
“This court finds the opposite. The defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so.”
In recent weeks, Zimmerman undertook a highly unusual press tour, stopping in friendly territory to do a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity, then turning around and refusing to do an interview with an ABC crew headed by journalist and producer Barbara Walters. The Walters delegation had traveled from New York City to Florida to meet with Zimmerman, only to have him back out at the last minute.
Walters said that Zimmerman requested something of her in return for the interview, a request that she could not grant, “being a member of ABC News.” She would not be goaded into revealing the request, but the New York Post reported the same day that Zimmerman has asked “in return for the chat, ABC put him and his wife up in a hotel for a month.”
The veteran journalist talked about her experiences with Zimmerman during a live segment on the talk show, “The View.” Moments after his name was first brought up, Walters announced that a producer was speaking into her ear piece, saying that Zimmerman was on the line and wanted to try to do an interview.
Walters refused to take his call, saying into the cameras, “”Mr. Zimmerman, if you could not do the interview yesterday, I don’t think we should do a quick one today. We will now continue with our program with the people who agree to interviews and then come here.”