June 17, 2024

Oklahoma Judge Was Scrolling On Facebook, Sending GIF During Murder Trial

  • An Oklahoma judge presided over the trial of a man accused of beating his girlfriend’s son to death.
  • Security footage seen by The Oklahoman shows the judge looking at her phone during the trial.
  • A district attorney said the judge “spent an hour of the trial on her cell phone,” according to The Oklahoman.

A District judge in Lincoln County is under investigation after security footage showed the juror scrolling through her phone during a seven-day murder trial. The Associated Press reported.

Judge Traci Soderstrom, a new state judge elected in November, oversaw a brutal murder trial that began last month. The case involved 32-year-old Khristian Tyler Martzall, who was charged in the death of his girlfriend, Braxton Danker, his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son. according to The Oklahoman, which first reported on Soderstrom’s courtroom behavior.

According to the local paper, this was Soderstrom’s first case. She began the trial by instructing jury members to turn off all electronic devices — common courtroom protocol — so they could “focus on the evidence without interruption,” The Oklahoman reported.

Soon, Soderstrom proceeded to check her phone.

Footage from a ceiling security camera pointed above the judge’s bench showed Sodestrom repeatedly checking her device, The Oklahoman reported. According to the newspaper, the judge used her phone during jury selection, opening statements and witness testimony.

At one point, Soderstrom checked her cell phone during positive testimony from the victim’s mother, Judith Danker. The footage also shows Soderstrom checking Facebook and, at one point, searching for and sending a GIF, The Oklahoman reported.

During the trial, the judge kept her phone in her lap or sometimes put it down in a drawer at her desk, which can be seen in the security footage, according to the report.

A spokesperson for the Lincoln County District Court was not available for comment over the weekend.

District Attorney Adam Panter, who reviewed the footage after receiving a tip from a courthouse employee, told The Oklahoman that the judge “spent an hour of the trial on her cell phone texting and scrolling through social media.”

“It’s scary and disappointing,” Panter told the newspaper. “Jurors are prohibited from using cell phones in the courtroom during trials because we expect them to give their time and full attention to the evidence being presented. I would hope and expect that the Court would hold itself to the same standard required of jurors, regardless of the type of case.”

Panter did not immediately return a request for comment sent over the weekend.

The Oklahoma Council on Judicial Grievances is investigating Soderstrom’s conduct, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office told the Associated Press.

According to The Oklahoman, Soderstrom moved the location of the ceiling security camera on Monday. Panter told the newspaper he was concerned that the judge did so instead of trying to address her behaviour.

Soderstrom was elected in November and was sworn in on January 9. According to The Oklahoman, Soderstrom became a series in 2003. The judge said Countywide & Sun last year that she had a broad legal background, practicing everything from administrative court matters to criminal and juvenile law.

Martzall was convicted of second degree manslaughter at the end of the trial. Prosecutors were seeking first-degree murder charges.

Martzall was arrested and jailed since his arrest in 2018, Panter told the Lincoln County News. The jury recommended time served for his punishment.

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