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Judge's rebuke to George Zimmerman: turning point in Trayvon Martin case?

The judge presiding over the Trayvon Martin murder case issued a harsh rebuke this week of George Zimmerman's dealings with the court. That probably won't serve the defendant well at his Stand Your Ground hearing, analysts say.

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“As a human being, Lester is going to be suspicious of Zimmerman’s testimony, but as a judge, and he is a good judge, he’s going to put his feelings aside and review the facts of the case, including Zimmerman’s testimony and the physical evidence,” says Blaine Chesney, an Orlando defense attorney who has been following the case. “So, will this order complicate Zimmerman’s case? Yes. But will Judge Lester be fair and impartial? The answer to that is yes, as well.”

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In his order on Thursday, Lester zeroed in on the heart of the case, after reprimanding Zimmerman for “manipulating” the court and his own attorney. “The only issue is the viability of the defendant’s self-defense/Stand Your Ground claim,” he wrote.

Referring to last week’s bond hearing, at which Zimmerman was mum, Lester noted the defense’s reluctance to put Zimmerman on the stand. The defense, he wrote, “did not offer any explanation of or justification for [Zimmerman's] deception that was subject to cross examination.”

The Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon in Sanford, Fla., set of a firestorm of protest nationwide after local authorities initially declined to charge Zimmerman, saying they had no reason to doubt his claim of self-defense. But even as thousands protested the fact that an armed half-white, half-Hispanic man went free while an innocent black teenager lay dead, thousands of other Americans sent money for Zimmerman’s defense, believing he was railroaded by prosecutors and the media for doing something that they, too, would have done.

It remains uncertain whether Zimmerman will be released on bond for a second time. Lester wrote in his order that he didn’t intend the $1 million bond as a punishment, but rather as a means to reduce the risk of Zimmerman taking flight. But the bond nevertheless may have the result of leaving Zimmerman in jail.

Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said it’s not clear his client will be able to post the bond, because the family doesn’t have $1 million in collateral. Some bailbondsmen, however, say they’d accept the arrangement because the defendant, at this point, poses a low flight risk. Previously, Zimmerman was allowed to live out of state pending trial, but now he must stay in Seminole County and cannot enter the premises of Orlando International Airport. A second passport Zimmerman acquired after the shooting has also been seized by the state.

Mr. O’Mara wrote in a blog post on Thursday that Zimmerman has $211,000 in donations, but noted that will not be enough to pay for both the 10 percent required on the $1 million bond and other expenses, including legal fees. Saying that donations had slipped from about $1,000 a day after Zimmerman returned to jail on June 3, O’Mara urged current and new donors to resume giving to the cause. 

“For those who have given in the past, for those who have thought about giving, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman was justified in his actions, for those who feel they would do the same if they were in Mr. Zimmerman’s shoes, for those that think Mr. Zimmerman has been treated unfairly by the media, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman has been falsely accused as a racist, for those who feel this case is an affront to their constitutional rights – now is the time to show your support,” O’Mara wrote.

Some $20,000 in donations have come in since Lester ruled on the bond.

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