Judge Accused of Misconduct During Murder Trial

(VitalNews.org) – An Oklahoma judge is being investigated over allegations of misconduct relating to her behavior during the murder trial of a two-year-old boy. According to court documents, Lincoln County District Judge Traci Soderstrom, aged 50, spent a significant portion of time scrolling on her phone and exchanging inappropriate texts with an unnamed, female bailiff. As well as reportedly exchanging around 500 text messages during court hours, court cameras show the Judge scrolling and typing on her phone, which she kept on her lap, partially hidden from view.

In a complaint filed by Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Kane, Soderstrom not only gave insufficient attention to the proceedings she was tasked to oversee, but she also approached the trial with the opinion that the defendant was not guilty, instead of having an impartial and fair approach.

The trial centered around the fatal beating of the two-year-old Braxton Danker, who was killed in 2018. The boy’s mother, Judith Danker, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to enabling child abuse. During the trial presided over by Soderstrom, Danker took to the stand to testify against her boyfriend, Khristian Martzall, who was ultimately convicted of second-degree manslaughter, a charge which comes with a two-to-four year custodial sentence. As he has been jailed since his arrest, he will serve no further time.

Amongst Judge Soderstrom’s multitude of missives to her bailiff was a text calling Judith Danker a “liar, liar”, as well as another claiming that Martzall was being used as a scapegoat as the prosecution was unable to accept that a mother could kill her child. She also exchanged lewd and inappropriate comments about a prosecutor’s genitals and about a police officer’s looks, and described the defense attorney as “awesome”, all during the course of the trial.

Soderstrom’s role as District Judge is due to end in 2027, but she faces removal from her post following a hearing on the allegations. When questioned by the Council on Judicial complaints about her conduct, she reportedly said that she could have waited until later to send the texts. Chief Justic John Kane said that her response showed her inability to appreciate that her comments should never have been made at any time, and that in his view, she did not have the requisite temperament to be a judge.

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