NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The judge weighing whether to make the Eric Garner grand jury proceedings public has pulled himself off the case.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, this is the same judge who granted District Attorney Dan Donovan’s request to release a sliver of information about the grand jury. Now, when asked by Public Advocate Tish James and others to unseal the transcripts and evidence, Stephen Rooney revealed in court that his wife is on the board of the hospital that employed the EMTs who responded to the Garner incident.

It’s a loose connection, but it raises a question for James.

“Why did he not rescue himself earlier?” she asked.

The judge indicated he is more concerned about the appearance of a conflict that his judgment being clouded.

In any case, a new judge will be assigned to the matter and a public hearing scheduled for Friday will more than likely be pushed back, Silverman reported.

Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, died this past July after he had been stopped by police for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other NYPD officers stopped Garner on the street in Tompkinsville, Staten Island. A video shot by an onlooker and widely watched on the Internet showed Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

Pantaleo responded by wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck in an apparent chokehold, which is banned under NYPD policy. The heavyset Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.” He later was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Earlier this month, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in the incident – prompting protests around the city and the country. But he is still subject to an ongoing probe by NYPD Internal Affairs and a federal investigation.

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