Judge in Trayvon Martin case to decide by Friday on recusal motion

The judge assigned to the George Zimmerman second-degree murder prosecution is expected to decide by Friday whether she will preside over the case.

Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, asked Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler to recuse herself from the case in a motion filed Monday. The judge last week revealed a potential conflict of interest: Her husband works with Mark NeJame, an Orlando area lawyer who is providing CNN on-air legal analysis on the case and was originally approached to represent Zimmerman, the Sanford neighborhood watch captain accused of fatally shooting unarmed Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin almost two months ago.

Recksiedler is on temporary assignment from the Florida Supreme Court to hear oral arguments at the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach. A statement from the Seminole County court spokeswoman said the judge will issue a written order on the motion to disqualify no later than Friday.

It’s not clear how that ruling will affect Zimmerman’s bail hearing, also scheduled for Friday, or a separate petition brought on behalf of several news organizations including the Miami Herald, challenging the sealing of the court records, which are normally considered open to the public in Florida.

O’Mara had asked Thursday that the records in the highly controversial case be sealed. He said the ruling helps to protect witnesses and keeps the information concentrated in the courts.

In the weeks since the case became public, at least a half-dozen witnesses — some publicly named, others kept anonymous— have given statements to reporters about what they saw or heard related to the shooting or Zimmerman’s appearance. On Sunday and Monday, three witnesses, all neighbors of Zimmerman, told Reuters they saw him with bandages on his nose and head the day after he fatally shot the teen — statements that support his claims that there was a fight as part of the confrontation. Zimmerman’s account was later questioned when a Sanford police video showed Zimmerman at the station without obvious injuries.

Jorge Rodriguez, Zimmerman’s next-door neighbor, told Reuters he saw Zimmerman talking to a police detective in his driveway the day after the shooting.

“He had two big, butterfly bandages on the back of his head, and another big bandage...on the bridge of his nose,” said Rodriguez whose observation was backed up by his wife and a third neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Zimmerman is charged in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin who was visiting his father’s girlfriend in a gated townhouse subdivision in Sanford. Zimmerman got into a physical altercation with the teen and shot him. Zimmerman is claiming self-defense.

In the weeks since the shooting, the case has taken on racial overtones.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Capt. Brian Beckmann, under investigation for a racially charged rant he posted on his personal Facebook page, is due back at work on Thursday and a decision is expected soon about whether he faces any disciplinary actions. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a statement Monday.

“The comment by Capt. Beckmann is reprehensible,’’ said Gimenez. “It’s hard to believe that anyone would make such a comment given the tragedy that the family has had to deal with. I have asked the Fire Department director to investigate if any county policies have been violated and will wait for the investigation to be completed to determine what action is warranted.”

Beckmann’s post, made public last week by a website, is critical of special prosecutor Angela Corey and says “urban youth” are the products of “failed, sh*tbag, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents.”

Beckmann, reached Tuesday by phone, said his response is limited by the inquiry. “I am eager to state my side, but I can’t with the open investigation,” he said, before declining further comment.

The case that has riveted the nation drew comments from first lady Michelle Obama Tuesday, in an interview with NPR.

“All I can say is that my heart goes out to the parents. Because we all, as parents, understand the tragedy of that kind of loss. And I think that’s really the thing that most people connect to.”

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