The appellate court has granted the Petition for Writ of Prohibition filed by George Zimmerman’s defense team. Florida has a very low standard for recusal of a judge: if a judge does or says something that would make an average person think they wouldn’t get a fair hearing, the judge must recuse himself. The judge doesn’t get the option of weighing the allegations, even if they are made up. In this case, the statements leading to the motion are all on the record. The judge pretty much hammered Zimmerman at the bond reconsideration hearings, as I’ve discussed before on this blog. See more from the ABA Journal, with links.
The impartiality of the judge is particularly important in this case. Since the judge has previously commented on the credibility of Mr. Zimmerman, the Defense team decided they had to make this move. At trial, the witnesses credibility will be determined by a jury, who generally will not be made aware of statements (or Mr. Zimmerman’s silence) at the bond proceedings. However, the Defense has indicated they plan a stand your ground motion, which will be decided by the judge. The primary factor in the judge’s deliberation will be the credibility of George Zimmerman, as he’s the only surviving direct witness to the shooting itself, and whether he had been attacked beforehand, or if he attacked Trayvon Martin. The question to be decided at that hearing will be “who provoked the physical altercation,” for which Zimmerman’s defense relies on the judge believing him.
There is always a consideration to be made at Stand Your Ground immunity hearings as to whether the defense attorney is willing to put the client on the stand, and expose him to cross-examination and to tip the prosecutor as to what he will say at trial. As Zimmerman previously gave an extensive statement to police, the Defense would like to use that, but the court said in the McDaniel case that hearsay is not admissible. Ironically, in McDaniel, the state was trying to rely on hearsay to proceed against Mr. McDaniel, but the ruling bars defendants from admitting their own statements. And to further the irony, the state is allowed to use a defendant’s statements against him/her, but the defendant is not allowed to introduce his own prior statements in his defense! It will be interesting to see how Zimmerman’s attorney’s proceed, but I anticipate they will probably put Mr. Zimmerman on the stand.