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Nation & World

Zimmerman seeks a new judge in Trayvon Martin case

ORLANDO, Fla. (MCT) — George Zimmerman’s attorney on Monday asked the judge in the case to step down because of a possible conflict of interest.

Attorney Mark O’Mara filed a motion seeking Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler’s removal because her husband is the law partner of Mark NeJame, who works for CNN as an analyst on the Zimmerman case.

“What I don’t want to happen is to wait a month or two then find out what we thought was a potential conflict is an actual conflict,” O’Mara said.

Exactly what the motion says was not clear because the court file is sealed, but Recksiedler is almost certain to grant it. Under Florida law, all a person needs to show is a reasonable belief that the judge might not be fair.

The case would then be reassigned to another judge. Seminole County felony cases are assigned to judges on a rotating basis, and the Zimmerman case would go to the judge who was due up for the next case.

Zimmerman is the neighborhood natch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black 17-year-old, on Feb. 26 as the teenager walked through a gated community in Sanford.

The shooting set off demonstrations in cities across the country as Martin’s family, lawyers and civil rights leaders called him a victim of racial profiling and demanded Zimmerman’s arrest. Last week, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail.

Also Monday, news media attorneys asked that the case file be unsealed.

O’Mara and attorneys for the state last week agreed that they wanted paperwork in the file kept secret. That also includes all the evidence that the state will, in the next few days and weeks, provide Zimmerman’s attorney.

Two sets of media attorneys on Monday filed motions, saying Zimmerman had not shown a need to seal the case.

One was filed by Tribune Co., the owner of the Orlando Sentinel, and WFTV-Channel 9.

“This criminal case has already raised serious questions – from all sides – about the ability of government to do its job and protect its citizens,” wrote Rachel Fugate, a lawyer representing Tribune. “Florida’s historically open and transparent judicial system should not compound such suspicions by operating in the dark in this case.”

The other was filed on behalf of The New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Tampa Bay Times, The Florida Times-Union, CNN, NBC and several others.

It’s not clear when a hearing on that might happen, but under Florida law, attorneys who want case records sealed must present evidence — not just argument — that open records would be a serious threat to justice.


©2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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