Oklahoma Judge Resigns After 500 Texts With Bailiff During Toddler Murder Trial

An Oklahoma judge resigned after exchanging 500 texts with her bailiff during a murder trial, calling witnesses liars and showing bias. The texts were revealed through courtroom footage while the judge presided over a case of a man accused of beating a toddler to death.

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A judge in Oklahoma resigned on Friday after exchanging 500 text messages with her bailiff while presiding over the murder trial of a man suspected of beating a toddler to death.

Traci Soderstrom resigned from her post as a district judge in Lincoln County before of a special court trial planned to begin on Monday, according to a resignation letter provided to local media.

Ms. Soderstrom faced dismissal from the bench for gross negligence of duty, blatant bias in office, and other judicial misconduct banned by the state Constitution.

“I texted during a trial,” she claimed after tendering her resignation, KOCO News reports. “It makes no difference whether it was a traffic case, a divorce case, or a first-degree murder case. “I texted during the trial, which was inappropriate.”

Ms. Soderstrom was presiding over a murder trial that began in June when she placed her personal cellphone on her lap, out of view of others in the courtroom, and communicated with the bailiff on a continuous basis, according to a court petition filed in October.

Ms. Soderstrom and the bailiff “called murder trial witnesses liars, admired the looks of a police officer who was testifying, disparaged the local defense bar, expressed bias in favor of the defendant, and displayed gross partiality against the state,” M. John Kane IV, chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, wrote in the petition.

According to the petition, the judge and bailiff referred to the co-defendant as a liar at least three times. While she was on the stand, the judge texted “comments like, ‘Can I please scream liar liar?'” Chief Justice Kane wrote.

While the judge and bailiff texted, Khristian Martzall, a guy from Oklahoma, was on trial.

He was charged with first-degree murder for the deadly beating of his girlfriend’s two-year-old kid. On June 15, 2023, a jury convicted Mr. Martzall of a lesser charge, second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to time served, which is about five years.

The kid’s mother, Judith Danker, pled guilty to facilitating child abuse in 2019 and received a 25-year sentence. She served as a witness in Mr. Martzall’s trial.

The judge’s smartphone use became public in July, when The Oklahoman published more than 50 minutes of courtroom surveillance footage, which showed the judge texting and reading Facebook throughout Mr. Martzall’s trial.

Ms. Soderstrom started office as a district judge in January 2023 after winning the election.

The Oklahoman stated that she had consented to a temporary suspension. According to a settlement agreement obtained by TV news station KFOR-TV, she is disqualified for any future judicial positions in Oklahoma. She also waived her right to appeal.

Ms. Soderstrom stated in a text message on Saturday that she had no comment.

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