Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. hears arguments during a hearing in the case against George Zimmerman on April 27, 2012 in Sanford, Florida.
A new judge was assigned to preside over George Zimmerman’s court case Thursday after the previous judge formally disqualified himself.
Florida's Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. should disqualify himself in Zimmerman's second-degree murder case. Lester did that in an order Thursday.
“Chief Judge Alan Dickey has reassigned the case to the next judge in the normal rotation of the criminal division, Criminal Administrative Judge Debra Nelson. Judge Nelson will preside over all future proceedings in State vs. Zimmerman,” the 18th Judicial Circuit said in a statement.
Lester denied Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara’s request that he leave the case earlier in August, and O’Mara then appealed to the district court in Daytona Beach.
O'Mara argued that Lester should disqualify himself after he said the judge made disparaging remarks about his client’s character and advocated for additional charges against Zimmerman in setting his $1 million bond in July.
Two of three judges from the Fifth District Court of Appeals supported O’Mara’s request in the ruling Wednesday.
Zimmerman, 28, has pleaded not guilty in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens in Sanford. He claims self-defense.
Nelson has served as a judge on the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit since 1999 and was the acting chief judge for Seminole and Brevard counties from July 2003 to June 2005, according to her judicial biography.
Nelson is the third judge to take up Zimmerman’s case. The first judge, Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, recused herself shortly after the proceedings began in April.