Shooting case gets new judge

Zimmerman’s attorney raised impartiality issue

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida judge presiding over the Trayvon Martin shooting case removed herself Wednesday after the attorney for defendant George Zimmerman argued she had possible conflicts of interest that related to her husband.

Florida Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler had said she would make a decision by Friday, when a bond hearing for Mr. Zimmerman had been set. Her husband works with Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, who was first approached by Mr. Zimmerman’s family to represent the neighborhood watch volunteer.

But Mr. NeJame declined and referred them to Mark O’Mara, who is now representing Mr. Zimmerman. Mr. NeJame has since been hired by CNN to comment on the case.

Judge Kenneth M. Lester Jr. will preside over the case. The next judge who would be in the court rotation, John D. Galluzzo, also cited a conflict, so Judge Lester was selected, according to a news release from the court.

Judge Galluzzo said he had a conflict because of his personal and business relationship with Mr. O’Mara.

Mr. O’Mara said he requested that Judge Recksiedler step down now because the case is just beginning and he wanted any possible conflict to be addressed right away rather than in the middle of the case. Judge Recksiedler was assigned the case after Mr. Zimmerman’s arrest last week.

The switch in judges isn’t expected to change Friday’s bail hearing during which Mr. Zimmerman will ask to be released on bond.

Mr. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the Feb. 26 shooting of the 17-year-old victim, whom Mr. Zimmerman says he shot in self-defense after he says the teen attacked him.

Trayvon’s family and supporters claim Mr. Zimmerman was the aggressor, targeting the teen for suspicion mainly because he was black. Mr. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother Hispanic.

Judge Lester, 58, was first elected to the bench in 1996.

He was born in Chicago and grew up in central Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1980, a year behind the special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Corey didn’t immediately return an email and phone call asking if they knew each other.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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