- The judge in the case is connected to a CNN analyst
- Mark O'Mara describes his client, George Zimmerman, as "frightened"
- Media outlets are asking that documents in the case be unsealed
The attorney for George Zimmerman says he is confident his motion to have a Florida judge removed from his client's case will be granted.
"I think she's going to go ahead and grant it and move the case on to another judge," Mark O'Mara, the lawyer, said Monday night.
Zimmerman's defense team formally requested Monday that Seminole Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler, the Florida judge assigned to their client's case, be removed after she revealed her husband works with a CNN legal analyst.
O'Mara's office filed paperwork Monday asking that Recksiedler not preside over second-degree murder proceedings involving Zimmerman and the motion to "disqualify" the trial judge "will be ruled on in the appropriate manner," a court official said.
Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, fatally shot teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, February 26, a killing he has said was in self-defense. Since then, the case has stirred civil rights activists nationwide and drawn intense publicity.
Recksiedler is assigned to the Zimmerman case. But on Friday, she said she would entertain motions to disqualify her from the trial because her husband is a law partner of Mark NeJame, an attorney whom Zimmerman approached about representing him and has since widely commented on the case in the media. NeJame is now a CNN contributor, providing analysis on this case.
NeJame told CNN that Zimmerman "contacted my office, attempting to reach me, and wanted to hire me to represent him" on March 13. One of his law partners relayed that request to NeJame, who declined. He explained later that he knew how taking on "big national cases (can) take a lot out of you" and wanted to have more time to spend with his children.
"I decided simply not to," the Orlando lawyer said.
A friend of Zimmerman's later repeated the request in a direct conversation with NeJame early last week, just as lawyers Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner said they'd no longer represent Zimmerman. By then, NeJame noted he'd been hired by CNN to serve as an analyst.
NeJame again said he could not represent Zimmerman and offered the names of five lawyers -- topped by O'Mara -- who might be considered instead.
"They said Mark is the one we want, I put them together, and they took it from there," said NeJame.
He acknowledged Tuesday, "it's an appearance of a conflict, an appearance of an impropriety" for Recksiedler to preside over the case. But, he said he thought she did nothing improper by waiting for a request from attorneys instead of offering to recuse herself first.
"I don't think she did anything out of the ordinary for this extraordinary situation," he said.
Meanwhile, news media organizations, including CNN, petitioned Recksiedler Monday to reverse an order sealing court records in Zimmerman's prosecution.
Prosecutors did not object when Zimmerman's attorneys asked Recksiedler to seal records last week. The judge ordered the court filings and other records sealed "without giving the public and press an opportunity to oppose closure," the media said in its motion.
Florida law requires a judge to consider whether the records closure is needed to "prevent a serious and imminent threat" to justice, the media members argued.
The court must also find that there is no alternative to sealing the records that would provide a fair trial and that the action would not be "broader than necessary to accomplish this purpose," they said.
In addition to CNN, several broadcasting and newspaper companies -- including the publishers of USA Today, the Miami Herald and The New York Times -- are part of the effort to unseal the documents.
O'Mara said Monday that he favors keeping documents sealed in this case in large part because of concerns that witnesses might be contacted and in danger if certain information is released.
"(Our) overall philosophy (is) to keep the information flow concentrated within the court system," he told CNN. "It's much better handled there."
As to his client, O'Mara said he speaks "at least a couple times a day" with Zimmerman, whom he described as doing well physically but "frightened."
Zimmerman is scheduled to return to court Friday for a bail hearing.
O'Mara says he hopes his client will be eligible for bond after that hearing and eventually be allowed to go free until the trial. If he does get out, though, the lawyer said there are legitimate fears about Zimmerman's safety.
"There have been a lot of emotions that have come forward in this case, and some of those emotions have shown themselves in bad ways," O'Mara said.