Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom is facing the possibility of losing her position after she was filmed sending text messages and browsing social media during a murder trial.
The chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a filing on Tuesday recommended the removal of the new judge for negligence of duty, following an investigation by the state’s Council on Judicial Complaints, AP reported.
Chief Justice John Kane IV wrote, “The pattern of conduct demonstrates Respondent’s (Soderstrom’s) gross neglect of duty, gross partiality and oppression. The conduct further demonstrates Respondent’s (Soderstrom’s) lack of temperament to serve as a judge.”
Soderstrom has been under scrutiny since July after she was caught sending almost 500 messages, including mocking the prosecutor, praising the defence lawyer and calling one of the key witnesses a lawyer to her bailiff during the trial of a man accused in a fatal beating of a 2-year-old child.
The video was published by the Oklahoman newspaper showing the judge texting during the jury selection, opening statements and testimony during the trial in Chandler.
She was suspended with pay pending the outcome of a hearing by the Court on the Judiciary, which will determine whether will she be removed from the bench.
‘Judge finds it funny’
All this began when Khrisitan Tyler Martzall, the man on trial, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter in the 2018 death of Braxton Danker, son of his girlfriend and was sentenced to time served. The mother of the child and Martzall’s girlfriend Judith, pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse, was sentenced to 25 years, and was a key witness who was called a “liar” by the judge.
As per the filing, the text reads, “State just couldn’t accept that a mom could kill their kid so they went after the next person available.”
According to Kane’s petition, Soderstrom’s texts also included saying “the prosecutor was sweating through his coat” during questioning of potential jurors and asking “Why does he have baby hands?” She also lauded the defence lawyer as ‘awesome’ and asked ‘can I clap for her?” during the arguments.
Furthermore, the filing stated that Soderstrom replied with a laughing emoji icon to the bailiff’s demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorney’s genitals. She commented a police officer was “pretty” adding “I could look at him all day.”
When questioned by the Council on Judicial Complaints, Soderstrom rather than realizing the comments should never have been made said that her texting probably could have waited and thought, “Oh, that’s funny. Move on.”