As Republicans parade through Tampa this week touting their party's platform, one formerly signature Florida issue -- Jeb Bush's Stand Your Ground law -- has been nowhere to be found. That probably has something to do with the ongoing trial just down the road in Orlando of George Zimmerman, who sparked a national firestorm with his use of the law as a defense for killing unarmed Miami teen Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman's defense just got its biggest win yet. A federal appeals court ruled last night that the judge presiding over his second-degree murder trial must step down for issuing an order with overly harsh words for the shooter.
Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester must now step down and Zimmerman's trial will wait until a new judge can take over, according to a 2-1 ruling from the Fifth District Court of Appeal.
Lester crossed the line in the written orders he produced after finding that Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, had lied to the court about more than $100,000 in donations she'd collected from supporters, and about the fact that Zimmerman had more than one passport.
Here's what Lester wrote while ordering Zimmerman jailed again on $1 million bond: "Under any definition, the defendant has flouted the system... [and] tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so."
He added that in his opinion, Zimmerman had lied on his bail application and could face another trial on the issue.
That crossed the line of biasing the murder trial against Zimmerman, his attorneys argued. The appeals court agreed, writing:
"Holding this over Mr. Zimmerman creates a horrible chilling effect on this case, on the defense presentation, and cements Mr. Zimmerman's fear that he will not get a fair trial from the trial court."
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Whoever replaces Lester will actually be the third judge on the case. The original judge, Jennifer Recksiedler, stepped down before the trial began because her husband worked at the same firm as an attorney who consulted with Zimmerman.