A lawyer’s motion to recuse a judge is always approached with some trepidation. After all, it is a suggestion that the judge cannot be impartial in a particular case – in other words, she cannot do her job. If the motion fails, then what? The lawyer must plead his case before a jurist who he has irritated, if not insulted. If the motion succeeds, what happens when the lawyer appears before that judge in a later case? Same thing, though somewhat attenuated. In the Zimmerman case, attorney Mark O’Mara has nothing to worry about.
No doubt it was with a sigh of relief Florida Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself from the Zimmerman case because of a potential conflict that relates to her husband. The entire order is sealed along with the other papers in the case file, but published comments indicate that, while she didn’t believe the recusal was legally required, she was seeking to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Fairly standard practice. Perhaps the rising star that became a crispy meteorite otherwise known as Judge Lance Ito crossed her mind. Now Judge Kenneth M. Lester Jr.,who has 15 years on the circuit bench and presumably less at stake for his future career, will preside over the case. The last media circus case, which happened to be in a neighboring county, was that of Casey Anthony. There Judge Belvin Perry competently presided, and the jury took the heat of public outrage over the not-guilty verdict. The judge in Zimmerman’s case may not be as lucky, no matter how competent. The matter appears to have media legs and the emotions continue to be high. For anyone who makes the hard decisions, judge or jury, this could be a no-win job.
The special prosecutor says she did not bring charges because of public pressure. Until more evidence is made public, we should take her at her word.. Nevertheless, as one who has been on both sides of probable cause determinations, I believe the affidavit supporting Zimmerman’s arrest would not fly in a Texas court.