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Judge steps aside from Zimmerman-Martin murder case

The defense team for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot black teen Trayvon Martin, is seeking a new judge in the case, citing an alleged conflict of interest involving her husband. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.

Seminole County Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler took herself off George Zimmerman's second-degree murder case on Wednesday because of a possible conflict of interest.

The new judge on the case is Judge Kenneth Lester Jr., a 15-year veteran who has heard death penalty cases, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, during a scuffle in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.


Zimmerman, a block watch volunteer, has pleaded not guilty, claiming it was self-defense.

The killing of Martin on Feb. 26, and a long delay in an arrest or charges in the case, sparked protests across the nation as well as emotionally charged debate about race relations and self-defense laws.

Martin is black, and Zimmerman is white and Hispanic.

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey ordered Zimmerman’s arrest and filed charges last week. Recksiedler was assigned to the case at that time.

With all the media coverage surrounding the Trayvon Martin case, many are asking if it will be possible for George Zimmerman to have a fair trial. The defense in the case has asked for the judge to be removing because of a potential conflict of interest. Trayvon Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, along with their attorney Benjamin Crump talk with Rev. Al Sharpton.

Recksiedler is on a temporary assignment for the Florida Supreme Court.

Zimmerman is being held in Seminole County Jail while he awaits a bail hearing, scheduled for Friday. That hearing will decide if Zimmerman will be released on bail pending trial, and the amount of money he would need to post.

“The goal is to have a new judge in place in order to make that hearing,” Michelle Kennedy, court spokeswoman, told msnbc.com on Wednesday.

Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O'Mara, on Monday requested that Recksiedler surrender the case because of a conflict of interest. Her husband is a partner in a law firm that includes Mark NeJame, an attorney who provides on-air analysis of the case for CNN. Zimmerman’s family also had approached NeJame about representing him, but NeJame declined.

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