Oklahoma District Judge Resigns After Sending Over 500 Texts to Bailiff During Murder Trial

Following her discovery texting hundreds of texts from the bench throughout the course of supervising a murder trial involving the death of a 2-year-old child, including ones that ridiculed the prosecution and were replete with emojis, an Oklahoma judge decided to resign on Friday.

A proposed settlement agreement submitted with the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary also committed District Judge Traci Soderstrom to never run for public office in Oklahoma. Allegations of egregious dereliction of duty, tyranny in office, improper temperament, and inability to manage her office had led to her dismissal from the bench. Monday was Soderstrom's planned trial date in a special court.

Soderstrom sent the local media a resignation letter in which he said, "I committed to enforce the Constitution in a fair, even-handed and efficient way." "I think I have succeeded in doing so. But like everyone else, I have made mistakes.

Following an investigation that revealed Soderstrom had made fun of prosecutors, laughed at a bailiff's remark about a prosecutor's genitalia, praised the defense lawyer, and called the prosecutor's key witness a liar during Khristian Tyler Martzall's murder trial, Chief Justice John Kane IV of the Oklahoma Supreme Court recommended that Soderstrom be removed.

The Oklahoman revealed that security footage from the trial in Chandler, around 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of Oklahoma City, showed Soderstrom texting or chatting for minutes at a time throughout jury selection, opening remarks, and testimony.

In October of last year, Soderstrom, who had just taken office, voluntarily suspended herself. According to Kane's petition, the judge texted the prosecutor while Martzall was on trial for the murder of his girlfriend's 2-year-old kid, allegedly claiming that the prosecutor was "sweating through his coat." During the defense attorney's opening statements, the SMS questioned, "Can I applaud for her?" and called the defense attorney "amazing." Soderstrom texted her bailiff almost 500 times in all.

In addition, Kane noted that Soderstrom texted the bailiff an emoji symbol for laughter after the bailiff "made a vulgar and insulting remark to the prosecution attorneys’ genitals." In the end, Martzall was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and given a time-served sentence.


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