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Trayvon Martin case: George Zimmerman trial judge recuses self

April 18, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler at a status hearing in the second-degree murder case against George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., on Friday. Zimmerman has been charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February in Sanford, Fla.
Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler at a status hearing in the second-degree… (Tom Benitez / EPA/Pool )

The judge in the George Zimmerman case recused herself on Wednesday after the defense sought to have her disqualified because her husband worked with a CNN legal affairs analyst who was approached by the defendant to represent him.

Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, the Florida judge assigned to the highly publicized case, announced that she had decided to leave because “the cumulative effect of the events and the totality of the circumstances provides a legally sufficient basis for this Court to grant the Motion to Disqualify.”

The case will be taken over by Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. 

The next judge in the rotation, John D. Galluzzo, disqualified himself because of a prior business and personal relationship with defense attorney Mark O’Mara, it was announced.

"Even though Judge Recksiedler had to grant the motion for disqualification in this case, she is very capable of presiding over this or any other criminal case and I have complete confidence in Judge Lester as well,” Chief Judge Alan Dickey stated.

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Fla., of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, an African American. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, told police he acted in self-defense.

Special prosecutor Angela B. Corey was appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to take over the investigation and filed the charge last week. In Florida, second-degree murder is typically charged in the event of a death stemming from a fight or confrontation that does not involve premeditation. It can result in a life sentence when a gun is used.

Corey said her investigators believe that Zimmerman had “profiled” the youth.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, is conducting a separate investigation to determine whether Zimmerman should be charged with violating Martin's civil rights. 

Judge Recksiedler was appointed to handle the case, but last week she held a hearing in which she explained her husband’s role and said she would consider motions that she recuse herself. Defense attorney O’Mara filed a formal motion have the judge step aside on Monday.

The judge’s husband, Jason Recksiedler, is a partner handling civil law matters for the firm of  Mark NeJame, the CNN analyst.

NeJame has said that Zimmerman contacted his firm, seeking representation, but NeJame declined for personal reasons. The Zimmerman camp renewed the request recently, but Nejame had already signed on to be an analyst for CNN, so he again said no. NeJame offered a list of five lawyers, including O’Mara, to Zimmerman.
 
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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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