UNITED STATES NEWS

An Oklahoma judge who sent more than 500 texts during a murder trial resigns

Feb 9, 2024, 7:35 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge who sent more than 500 texts to her bailiff during a murder trial will resign, according to a court filing.

In a proposed settlement agreement filed Thursday with the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary, District Judge Traci Soderstrom agreed to resign on Friday and never again seek a judicial office in Oklahoma.

If accepted, the settlement would stop a trial scheduled to start Monday on a request to remove Soderstrom from the bench for reasons that include gross neglect of duty, oppression in office, lack of proper temperament and failure to supervise her office.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane IV recommended Soderstrom be removed following an investigation that found she mocked prosecutors, laughed at the bailiff’s comment about a prosecutor’s genitals, praised the defense attorney and called the prosecutor’s key witness a liar during the murder trial of Khristian Tyler Martzall.

Soderstrom, who was elected in November 2022 and took office on Jan. 9, 2023, voluntarily suspended herself in October.

Soderstrom’s resignation letter, given to local media, said she hoped to restore faith in the judicial system.

“I promised to uphold the Constitution in a fair, even-handed and efficient manner,” Soderstrom said. “I believe that I have done so. However, being human, I have also faltered.”

The judge’s texts during Martzall’s trial on a charge of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son included saying the prosecutor was “sweating through his coat,” according to Kane’s petition. The texts described the defense attorney as “awesome” and asked “can I clap for her?” during the defense attorney’s opening arguments.

Soderstrom also texted a laughing emoji icon to the bailiff, who had “made a crass and demeaning reference to the prosecuting attorneys’ genitals,” Kane wrote.

Martzall was eventually convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to time served.

Security video published by The Oklahoman showed Soderstrom texting or messaging for minutes at a time during jury selection, opening statements and testimony during the trial in Chandler, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City.

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An Oklahoma judge who sent more than 500 texts during a murder trial resigns