Bloomberg News

Zimmerman Seeks to Disqualify Judge in Trayvon Martin Case

April 16, 2012

George Zimmerman, the Florida man charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, has filed papers seeking to disqualify the judge assigned to his case.

Judge Jessica Recksiedler last week said she has a potential conflict of interest because her attorney-husband works with a TV legal analyst whom Zimmerman had sought out for legal representation in the case.

Recksiedler invited Zimmerman lawyer Mark O’Mara to formally ask that she step aside. O’Mara’s filing of that request was announced today by Seminole County Chief Circuit Judge Alan A. Dickey in an e-mailed statement.

“A motion entitled ‘Defendant’s Verified Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge’ has been filed with the Clerk of the Court in State v. Zimmerman, and will be ruled on in the appropriate manner,” Dickey said in a message issued by a court spokeswoman, Michelle Kennedy. Copies of the document weren’t immediately made available.

O’Mara’s office didn’t immediately reply to an after- hours voicemail message seeking a copy of the disqualification papers. After-hours calls to prosecutor Angela B. Corey Corey’s offices in Jacksonville, Yulee and Green Cove Springs, Florida, went unanswered.

Zimmerman, 28, claimed self-defense in the fatal February shooting of Martin, 17. Charged with second-degree murder on April 11, he is scheduled to be arraigned May 29. O’Mara has said his client will plead not guilty.

‘Yes Sir’

In a brief initial court appearance on April 12, a handcuffed Zimmerman said only “yes sir” to acknowledge his representation by O’Mara to Judge Mark Herr.

Herr found sufficient evidence to support the murder charge, clearing the way to send the case to a trial court judge.

The judge disclosed at an April 13 hearing that her husband, Jason Jarrett Recksiedler, works with Mark NeJame, a CNN television analyst who was initially contacted by Zimmerman’s family in their search for a defense lawyer. NeJame referred Zimmerman to O’Mara.

Jason Recksiedler is a civil, not criminal lawyer, the judge said.

O’Mara, who appeared along with state lawyers by teleconference, told the judge he was concerned about NeJame’s role as an analyst, and that NeJame had gotten Zimmerman’s family to sign an agreement allowing the analyst to disclose that he had talked to them. O’Mara said he hadn’t seen the agreement.

‘Better Choice’

“When Mr. NeJame decided to act as an analyst and not take on the case ... he suggested that I might be a better choice,” O’Mara said. “He has a connection with the family that I haven’t understood yet.”

O’Mara later said that NeJame’s “role is going to be quite significant as an analyst and it is going to be more and more difficult I think, to maintain the proper separation.”

Zimmerman’s lawyer last week said he would seek his client’s release from custody at an April 20 bond hearing.

Zimmerman shot Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, a central- Florida town of 54,000 people north of Orlando.

The case is State of Florida (STOFL1:US) v. Zimmerman, 1712FO4573, Circuit Court of the 18th Judicial Circuit (Seminole County).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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