The defense attorney representing George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who is on trial for second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, has requested that the judge in the case recuse herself because of a potential conflict of interest.
Zimmerman's attorney, Orlando-based lawyer Mark O’Mara, filed the request on Monday in Seminole County Circuit Court to disqualify Judge Jessica J. Recksiedler because her husband works with an attorney with whom Zimmerman also consulted about his charges.
According to an April 16 article in the Orlando Sentinel:
“What I don't want to happen,” O'Mara told reporters Monday, "is to wait a month or two then find out what we thought was a potential conflict is an actual conflict."
Exactly what the motion says was not clear because the court file is sealed, but Recksiedler could be likely to grant it. Under Florida law, all a person needs to show in a recusal motion is a reasonable belief that the judge might not be fair.
The case would then be reassigned to another judge. Word was not available this week on who that would be, but all Seminole County felony cases are assigned to judges on a rotating basis, and the Zimmerman case would likely go to the judge who was due up for the next case.
Zimmerman was charged by the Florida State Attorney’s Office last week with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, 28, is pleading not guilty, and planning to assert the affirmative defense of justifiable homicide under Florida’s stand your ground law. At the time of the shooting, Martin, 17, was unarmed.
The current judge’s potential conflict involves her husband, who works as co-counsel with another Orlando lawyer, Mark NeJame. According to the Sentinel, NeJame also has a contractual arrangement with CNN as an analyst on the Zimmerman case.
Several media outlets have misreported the issue as one of "bias" under the rules of evidence, but Florida law experts say that isn't the actual problem in the case.
According to Professor Michael Seigel, a former federal prosecutor who teaches criminal law and evidence at the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin School of Law, that's not entirely accurate. Seigel told Breitbart.com:
I'm not sure how it would be bias, I don't see bias, I see what they would be concerned about would be a conflict of interest by a potential attorney client privilege issue. What defense counsel is doing by filing the motion is getting this on the record. I think what the judge will do...she would essentially say 'no information got to me during this route' so it gets on the record that there has been no breach of attorney client privilege. If she recuses herself then she may think there was some kind of breach, but this is way to make the record clear that she was not infected by any attorney client privilege information.
Breitbart.com spoke with an assistant to O'Mara, but he was not available for comment.