An Oklahoma judge was overseeing a trial for a man accused of beating his girlfriend’s son to death.
Security footage viewed by The Oklahoman shows the judge looking at her phone during the trial.
A district attorney said the judge “spent hours of the trial on her cellphone,” per The Oklahoman.
A Lincoln County District judge is under investigation after security footage showed the jurist scrolling through her phone throughout 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 accused of beating his then-girlfriend’s 2-year-old son, Braxton Danker, to death, according to The Oklahoman, which first reported on Soderstrom’s courtroom conduct.
According to the local paper, this was Soderstrom’s first case. She began the trial by instructing the jury members to turn off all electronic devices — a common courtroom protocol — so that they could “concentrate 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 throughout jury selection, opening statements, and witness testimony.
At one point, Soderstrom checked her cellphone during a tearful testimony from the victim’s mother, Judith Danker. The footage also shows Soderstrom checking Facebook and, once, searching and sending a GIF, The Oklahoman reported.
Throughout the trial, the judge held her phone in her lap or sometimes set it down in a drawer at her desk, which can be seen in the security footage, according to the report.
A Lincoln County District Court spokesperson was unavailable for comment during 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 hours of the trial on her cellphone both texting and scrolling through social media.”
“It is both shocking and disappointing,” Panter told the newspaper. “Jurors are banned from using cellphones in the courtroom during trials because we expect them to give their full time and attention to the evidence being presented. I would expect and hope the Court would hold itself to the same standard required of the jurors, regardless of the type of case.”
Panter did not immediately return a request for comment sent during the weekend.
The Oklahoma Council on Judicial Complaints is investigating Soderstrom’s conduct, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office told Associated Press.
According to The Oklahoman, Soderstrom moved the position of the ceiling security camera on Monday. Panter told the newspaper that he was concerned the judge did so instead of trying to address her behavior.
Soderstrom was elected in November and sworn in on January 9. According to The Oklahoman, Soderstrom became a layer in 2003. The judge told Countywide & Sun last year that she had an extensive legal background, practicing everything from administrative court issues 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 placed in jail since his arrest in 2018, Panter told The Lincoln County News. The jury recommended time served for his punishment.
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