The Florida judge presiding over the Trayvon Martin shooting case removed herself Wednesday after the attorney for defendant George Zimmerman argued she had a possible conflict of interest that related to her husband.
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 Lester was selected, according to a news release from the court.
Florida Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler had said she would make a decision by Friday, when a bond hearing for Zimmerman had been set. Her husband works with Orlando attorney Mark NeJame, who was first approached by Zimmerman’s family to represent the neighborhood watch volunteer.
But NeJame declined and referred them to Mark O’Mara, who is now representing Zimmerman. NeJame has since been hired by CNN to comment on the case.
Galluzzo said he had a conflict because of his personal and business relationship with O’Mara.
O’Mara said he requested that 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. Recksiedler was assigned the case after Zimmerman’s arrest last week.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the Feb. 26 shooting of the 17-year-old Martin. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense after he says the teen attacked him. Martin was unarmed.
Martin’s family and supporters claim Zimmerman was the aggressor, targeting Martin for suspicion mainly because he was black. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother Hispanic.
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 Corey didn’t immediately return an email and phone call asking if they knew each other.
The switch in judges isn’t expected to change Friday’s bail hearing during which Zimmerman will ask to be released on bond.
Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler holds a status hearing Friday, April 13, 2012, in Sanford, Fla., in the second-degree murder case against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.