Seminole Circuit Judge Kenneth M. Lester Jr. will now replace Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who agreed to recuse herself from the murder trial.
Zimmerman, 28, stands accused of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a case that has made headlines around the world. A neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, whom he thought seemed suspicious, and shot the teen in the ensuing confusion.
Sanford police cited Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law in not charging Zimmerman. Specially appointed prosecutor, Angela Corey, earlier this month announced the second degree murder charge.
Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara had requested that Recksiedler remove herself from the case. Last week, the judge had revealed a potential conflict of interest, in that her spouse works with Orlando-area lawyer Mark NeJame, who was originally approached to represent George Zimmerman.
NeJame, who also is doing on-air legal analysis for CNN regarding the Trayvon case, declined and referred the case to O’Mara.
The defense lawyer’s exact reason for asking for the judge to remove herself is not known as the file remains sealed by court order.
According to a press release issued by a court spokeswoman this afternoon, the judge found the individual reasons “legally insufficient” but nevertheless removed herself from the case due to the “the cumulative effect of the events and the totality of the circumstances.”
Another judge, John D. Galluzo, couldn’t be appointed either due to his own potential conflict of interest – O’Mara is a past business partner with him. Lester was appointed instead.
Chief Judge Alan Dickey, who appointed Lester, said in a prepared statement: “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.”