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Zimmerman wants to toss trial judge in Trayvon Martin case

Pool / Getty Images file

Judge Kenneth Lester presides over George Zimmerman's bond hearing June 29 in a Seminole County courtroom in Sanford, Fla.

George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, on Friday asked for a new judge – again.

The motion was revealed as one of two Zimmerman case documents released Friday. The second sought to keep certain evidence evidence from being made public.

Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O'Mara said in the judge-recusal filing that remarks by Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester “created a reasonable fear in Mr. Zimmerman that this court is biased against him” and Zimmerman “cannot get a fair trial."


O’Mara took issue with Lester saying in a July 5 order setting Zimmerman’s bail at $1 million that the defendant had “flouted the system” by failing to disclose at his first bond hearing in April that he had raised money from donations for his legal defense.

Handout / Reuters

George Zimmerman

In April, Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bond. The judge revoked the bond June 1 after prosecutors showed Zimmerman had allowed his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, to mislead the court about the couple's financial picture during an April hearing, failing to disclose at least $130,000 raised in a PayPal account.

More msnbc.com coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting death 

In granting the $1 million bail earlier this month, Lester said that evidence indicated Zimmerman, 28, was preparing to flee to avoid prosecution based on the money raised online, and his possession of second passport that he had failed to disclose to the court.

O’Mara’s motion argued the comment showed bias.

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"The court makes sweeping generalizations about Mr. Zimmerman based on limited information and disregards the evidence that contradicts those conclusions," O’Mara said in the motion.

A spokeswoman for the judge said Lester wouldn't comment Friday but would address the matter later.

After Judge Kenneth Lester set a bond of $1 million, Zimmerman made bail with strict conditions governing his release. NBC's Kate Snow reports.

A spokesperson for State Attorney Angela Corey's office said in an email to media that it would file its own response to the recusal motion next week, and added that "the State objects to the Defendant trying to disqualify Judge Lester."

In April, Zimmerman and his legal team asked the judge presiding at the time, Jessica Recksiedler, to step aside because of a possible conflict of interest after revelations that her husband, Jason Recksiedler, had been contacted by Zimmerman's family as part of their search for a defense attorney.

The request was granted and Lester was appointed at that time to serve as judge in the case.

Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty, told police he acted in self-defense in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin, 17, in a Sanford, Fla., gated community.

In the second document released Friday, Lester denied O’Mara’s effort to keep two pieces of evidence under seal:

  • A statement by so-called “witness #9.” In a statement released earlier, witness #9 told Sanford police that Zimmerman harbors prejudiced views. While NBC News has not seen the second statement, sources said it could be explosive and could damage Zimmerman in the court of public opinion.
  • Details of almost 150 jail calls between Zimmerman and friends and family members.

 

According to an FBI report investigating whether race was a factor in the shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, none of the dozens of people the FBI interviewed said shooter George Zimmerman is a racist. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

 

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