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New judge appointed after recusal in murder case of Montgomery officer

Published: Mar. 23, 2017 at 3:00 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2017 at 3:02 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - During a hearing on Thursday, Montgomery Circuit Court Judge James Anderson recused from the high-profile murder case involving a Montgomery Police Officer at the request of defense attorney Mickey McDermott.

McDermott represents Officer Aaron Smith, who is charged with the murder of Gregory Gunn.

The issue at hand: Anderson's son, Jesse Anderson is an attorney at Montgomery law firm Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco. An attorney at the same firm is representing Smith in a civil wrongful death claim, filed by the family of Gregory Gunn in federal court. Jesse Anderson has no direct involvement with the civil case.

Judge Anderson cited in court that he has spoken to the JIC about this issue, and felt he could be fair and impartial. Anderson was advised that his son, as a private attorney, couldn't benefit financially from any decision he makes on the bench, which in this case would allow Anderson to preside over the murder case. Judge Anderson explained to the state and defense that he would leave the issue of recusal up to them.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Lloria James stated she didn't have a problem with Anderson presiding over the case, however, McDermott made the official request for recusal stating in this case he must, "dot every I and cross every T."

Anderson promptly recused from the case, in this instance for the possible appearance of impropriety. Late Thursday afternoon, Montgomery Circuit Judge Roman Shaul was appointed to preside over the case.

Anderson is the second judge to recuse from the case. Montgomery Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick was initially assigned to preside over the case but recused due to conflict of interest. Attorney Lewis Gillis represents the family of Gregory Gunn, Gillis also represents Hardwick's family member in a criminal case.

Smith was charged with murder following the shooting of Gregory Gunn in March 2016 and was indicted later in November 2016

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