Calling its decision a “close call,” a Florida appeals court granted an appeal by Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman to disqualify the judge sitting on his case, reports Courthouse News Service. The 5th District Court of Appeal ordered Seminole County Judge Kenneth Lester to step down. In his motion to disqualify Lester, Zimmerman argued that “gratuitous, disparaging” remarks the trial judge made in bond hearings demonstrated bias.
One member of the three-judge appellate panel dissented. Lester agreed to release Zimmerman on $150,000 bond in April, then revoked bond on learning that Zimmerman and his wife had failed to reveal they had raised more than $150,000 from public donations. Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, was charged with perjury in June. In July, Zimmerman was released again, on $1 million bond. Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer, shot the unarmed, black 17-year-old Martin in February and claimed self-defense. The new presiding judge in the case is expected to be Debra Nelson, reports the Orlando Sentinel.