ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS/AP) The Florida judge in the Casey Anthony murder trial has removed himself from the case after Anthony's defense team argued that comments the judge made to a blogger showed he had a strong prejudice against their client.
Circuit Judge Stan Strickland granted a motion filed by Anthony's attorneys last week, asking that he recuse himself from the case, in which Orlando mother Casey Anthony is charged with murdering her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, in 2008.
In his decision, Strickland denied doing anything wrong. But he said he was removing himself from the case because Anthony's attorneys likely would allege bias each time he ruled against their motions. He also took a swipe at accusations from them that he was seeking publicity from the case, and that his decisions could be influenced by his desire to maximize publicity.
"At its core, the defense counsel's motion accuses the undersigned (the judge) of being a 'self-aggrandizing media hound,"' Strickland wrote in his decision. "Indeed. The irony is rich."
Anthony's attorneys asked Strickland to remove himself after a defense investigator interviewed Dave Knechel, a blogger known as "Marinade Dave," who has written about the Anthony case. The blogger said that the judge called him to the bench after a pretrial hearing last October to praise his coverage. Knechel also claimed that the judge called him last February to wish him well after he was hospitalized for a few days.
The defense attorneys claim Knechel's coverage was critical of Anthony.
In his decision, Strickland said he had begun reading blogs about the case to help him decide on whether the trial should be moved out of Orlando because of the excessive media coverage. Defense attorneys have asked for a change of venue but no ruling has been made on the request.
A spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office in Orlando said the recusal decision was between the judge and Anthony's attorneys and that "the state does not have a role in the decision."
Casey Anthony has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and has said a babysitter kidnapped her daughter. The toddler's remains were found in Dec. 2008, six months after she was reported missing. The mother's trial isn't scheduled to start until 2011.
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