Florida Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester may have set out on a path to judicial media fame today, when he was appointed to replace Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler in the second-degree murder trial against Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman.
Although the assignment was random — Seminole County criminal cases are assigned by chance — the racially-charged case could make Lester one of the most famous local judges in America. Trayvon’s Martin’s death has captured national attention, and news cameras are expected to flock to Florida to provide blanket coverage of Zimmerman’s trial.
Lester’s appointment could also affect the legal strategies of Zimmerman’s defence attorney Mark O’Mara and Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey. Lester is known to be a tough sentencer, and has a reputation for ruling over his courtroom with an iron fist. (He has had at least 3 defendants taken into custody for showing up late, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.)
Since his election to the circuit court in 1996, Lester has presided over several high-profile local cases, and is not afraid to hand down the death penalty. In one of his most well-known trials, Lester gave Michael Reynolds two death sentences in 2003 for beating and stabbing a Florida couple and their 11-year child to death. According to the Sun-Sentinel, he also sentenced “ax murderer and handyman John Michael Buzia” to death for killing a 71-year-old man.
Prior to joining the bench, Lester worked in private practice for 17 years. An Orlando native and Vietnam veteran, he is well-regarded in the Florida legal community. He and his wife Dorothy have two grown children, including a daughter who is a member of the Florida Bar.
The Sun-Sentinel reports that he also likes to play Beatles songs on the piano.
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