A Florida appeals court ruled in favor of a request by the defense for George Zimmerman, seeking a new judge in the Trayvon Martin shooting. The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to overturn a ruling by Judge Kenneth Lester refusing to step down from the case.
“We direct the trial judge to enter an order of disqualification,” the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeal wrote in its opinion.
After a bond hearing on July 5, George Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara filed a motion for a new judge, claiming Judge Kenneth Lester made “gratuitous” and “disparaging remarks” about Zimmerman and showed bias in the bond ruling when raising his bond from $150,000 to $1 million.
Records evidenced that both Zimmerman and his wife knew about contributions made by supporters of Zimmerman online before the bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman transferred $74,000 in eight smaller amounts ranging from $7,500 to $9,990, from her husband’s credit union account to hers, according to an arrest affidavit. It also shows that $47,000 was transferred from George Zimmerman’s account to his sister’s in the days before the bond hearing.
On June 1, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester revoked the bond after ruling that George Zimmerman and his wife had lied about how much money they had at a hearing that resulted in his release on $150,000 bond. Zimmerman’s wife was later charged with felony perjury.
The incident gained national attention in March, after allegations that George Zimmerman, an unofficial neighborhood watch volunteer in his Florida subdivision shot an unarmed teen Trayvon Martin, 17, because he was black.
Sanford, Florida police records revealed that Zimmerman called 911 a total of 46 times since 2001, to report disturbances, break-ins and other incidents. On nine different occasions, Zimmerman reported a suspicious person.
On February 26, George Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspect he said looked intoxicated, and had cut through from the main street in the tidy Retreat at Twin Lakes, and ducked between two blocks of townhouses, when he started chasing the boy. In the tape recording of the 911 call, Zimmerman tells the 911 dispatcher:
“These a**holes, they always get away.”
Dispatcher: “Are you following him?”
Dispatcher: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
However, Zimmerman did not stop.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement agencies are encouraging neighbors to spy on each other and report anything suspicious, while remaining anonymous. Some states are offering convenient and innovative concepts such as smartphone apps that allow residents to report suspicious activity straight to fusion centers in ‘real time’.
As states and local governments continue to accept and even encourage anonymous tips to police and hotlines, expect similar stories in the future .