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George Zimmerman, center, stands with a Seminole County Deputy and his attorney Mark O'Mara during a court hearing Thursday April 12, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel, Pool)
Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself from George Zimmerman’s court case Wednesday, and Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. will take it over instead.
Recksiedler cited a possible conflict of interest related to her husband, who works with Orlando attorney Mark NeJame.
NeJame was approached by Zimmerman’s family about representing the 28-year-old defendant before lawyer Mark O’Mara came on board, Recksiedler said in court last week, as she also mentioned that NeJame is working as a CNN legal analyst for the case.
On Monday O’Mara asked that Recksiedler step down from the case. On Wednesday she issued an order to do that, explaining that the reasons presented to remove her were “legally insufficient” for disqualification, but cumulatively they were, the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit said in a statement.
Lester will handle Zimmerman’s case in place of Recksiedler, Chief Judge Alan Dickey has directed.
"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,” Dickey said in a statement.
Lester will preside over a bond hearing in Sanford Friday morning for Zimmerman, who has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin in a gated community in the Central Florida city.
Zimmerman has said he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense, in a case that has been closely watched around the nation.
The court proceedings in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman only began last Thursday, the day after his arrest, which came 45 days after the shooting.
Lester graduated from the University of Florida College of Law in 1980 and practiced criminal and family law in state and federal court for 16 years before he was first elected to the circuit court in 1996, according to his judicial bio.
He enlisted in the U.S. Navy while in high school and is a Vietnam combat veteran.
In another development Wednesday, South Florida civil rights leaders protested at the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami to demand discipline for a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue captain whose comments about the Martin case on his personal Facebook page set off a firestorm of controversy.