Zimmerman judge replaced in Trayvon Martin case

SANFORD, Fla., April 18 (UPI) -- Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. Wednesday was assigned to take over the case of a neighborhood watchman who killed unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Lester was randomly assigned to the case in Seminole County Court after Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself because of a conflict of interest, the Orlando Sentinel reported.


Lester will preside at Zimmerman's bond hearing Friday, the newspaper said. A separate petition brought by several news organizations challenging the sealing of normally open court records is also set for Friday.

Wayne Klinkbeil, an assistant public defender in Lester's courtroom in 1997, told the Sentinel he is "very in control of his courtroom, very straightforward."

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Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, filed paperwork Monday asking Recksiedler, who became a judge last year, to step down because her husband is an Orlando-area lawyer under contract with CNN to provide on-air legal analysis of the case and was originally approached to represent Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, 28, is in the Seminole County jail, charged with second-degree murder.

On Feb. 26, he shot and killed Martin in a gated community in Sanford as the 17-year-old was walking to the home of his father's girlfriend from a convenience store.

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Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, told police he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense.

The prosecution alleges in a public filing Zimmerman "profiled" Martin and "falsely assumed" he was "a criminal" -- one of the "punks" who "did not belong in the gated community."

If convicted, Zimmerman faces a maximum life sentence.

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Evangelical pastor Terry Jones -- who threatened to observe the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by burning more than 200 Korans, the Islamic scripture -- plans to hold a rally in Sanford Saturday in support of Zimmerman.

The rally will support "the constitutional rights for George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin," a spokesman for Jones' church, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, told the Sentinel.

A statement on Jones' Stand Up America Now! Web site announcing the 1 p.m. demonstration at Sanford's Criminal Justice Center gives no indication of support for Martin, a United Press International review of the site found.

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The announcement appears under the heading, "JUSTICE FOR ZIMMERMAN vs. RACIST LYNCH MOB."

A caption under a "Justice for Zimmerman" sign says, "Terry Jones supports George Zimmerman." It does not say Jones supports Martin, although it calls his killing a "tragedy."


Zimmerman has not acknowledged Jones' support. But a photo of a "Justice for Zimmerman" sign on Zimmerman's Web site appears to be identical to one on the Stand Up America! site.

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Separately, a conservative policy group that came under attack after the Martin shooting for pushing so-called Stand Your Ground gun laws nationwide said Tuesday it was getting out of the law-enforcement and social-policy arenas and returning to its economic roots.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, made up of business interests and conservative state legislators, voted unanimously last week to disband its committee that developed policies on public safety, elections and other non-economic issues, the group said.

ALEC will now move its "resources in the task forces that focus on the economy," said group Chairman David Frizzell, majority whip of the Republican-controlled Indiana House of Representatives.

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ALEC suffered an exodus of big-name corporate supporters including McDonald's Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. after recent attacks by liberal organizations following the Martin shooting, The New York Times reported.

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