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Oklahoma judge could be removed for sending more than 500 texts during murder trial

She has been underneath scrutiny since July after she was caught on digital camera scrolling by means of social media and texting in the course of the trial of a person accused within the deadly beating of a 2-year-old.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A brand new Oklahoma choose might lose her job for sending greater than 500 texts to her bailiff throughout a homicide trial, together with messages mocking the prosecutor, praising the defence legal professional and calling a key witness a liar.

The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court docket advisable the elimination of Lincoln County District Decide Traci Soderstrom in a courtroom submitting Tuesday following an investigation by the state’s Council on Judicial Complaints.

Soderstrom has been underneath scrutiny since July after she was caught on digital camera scrolling by means of social media and texting in the course of the trial of a person accused within the deadly beating of a 2-year-old.

Soderstrom, who was sworn in on Jan. 9 after being elected in November, was suspended with pay pending the result of a listening to by the Court docket on the Judiciary, which is able to decide whether or not to take away her from the bench.

“The sample of conduct demonstrates Respondent’s (Soderstrom’s) gross neglect of obligation, gross partiality and oppression,” Chief Justice John Kane IV wrote. “The conduct additional demonstrates Respondent’s (Soderstrom’s) lack of temperament to function a choose.”

A telephone name to a quantity listed for Soderstrom rang unanswered earlier than disconnecting Wednesday.

The choose’s texts included saying the prosecutor was “sweating by means of his coat” throughout questioning of potential jurors and asking “why does he have child fingers?” based on Kane’s petition. The texts described the defence legal professional as “superior” and requested “can I clap for her?” in the course of the defence legal professional’s opening arguments.

Soderstrom additionally texted a laughing emoji icon to the bailiff, who had “made a crass and demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorneys’ genitals,” Kane wrote.

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Khristian Tyler Martzall — the person who was on trial whereas the choose was on her telephone — was ultimately convicted of second-degree manslaughter within the 2018 dying of Braxton Danker, the son of Martzall’s girlfriend, and sentenced to time served.

Martzall’s girlfriend and the mom of the kid, Judith Danker, pleaded responsible to enabling youngster abuse, was sentenced to 25 years and was a key prosecution witness who was referred to as a liar by Soderstrom throughout testimony.

“State simply couldn’t settle for {that a} mother might kill their child so that they went after the following individual accessible,” Soderstrom texted, based on the submitting from Kane.

Soderstrom’s texts additionally included feedback questioning whether or not a juror was sporting a wig, if a witness has tooth and calling a police officer who testified, “fairly,” including, “I might take a look at him all day.”

When questioned by the Council on Judicial Complaints, Soderstrom stated her texting “most likely might have waited” slightly than realizing the feedback ought to by no means have been made. She stated she thought, “oh, that’s humorous. Transfer on.”

Safety video printed by The Oklahoman newspaper confirmed Soderstrom texting or messaging for minutes at a time throughout jury choice, opening statements and testimony in the course of the trial in Chandler, about 45 miles (72 kilometres) northeast of Oklahoma Metropolis.

Kane’s petition additionally stated Soderstrom had beforehand criticized different attorneys and prosecutors, and berated a member of the courthouse workers.

Soderstrom ought to be eliminated for causes that embody gross neglect of obligation, gross partiality in workplace and oppression in workplace, Kane wrote.

The choose’s four-year time period ends in January 2027.

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