A judge in Oklahoma was caught sending hundreds of texts and looking through social media as a murder trial took place last year. The judge, Traci Soderstrom, admitted that her actions were “inappropriate.”
On Friday, Soderstrom resigned which was three days prior to her being set to go to trial in a special court.
Security recordings show Soderstrom, the ex-judge for Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties, looking through her phone for long periods of time as the June 2023 trial took place. Kristian Martzall, the defendant, had been on trial for the killing of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son in 2018.
After a later investigation occurred, it was found that Soderstrom texted over 500 times with her bailiff as the trial was happening. The texts included the two mocking the physical appearance of the lawyers, jurors, and witnesses. They also used inappropriate language to ridicule the State’s attorney, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined.
Court documents also show that Soderstrom and her bailiff called witnesses in the murder trial liars, admired the physical appearance of a police officer who testified, belittled the local defense bar, showed bias in favor of the defendant, and revealed partiality against the State.
In her comments on Friday, Soderstrom defended the characterizations of her texts. She also disagreed that she showed any bias in the matter.
“I didn’t make up my mind. Even if I had, that wouldn’t have mattered, because I was not the fact-finder,” she stated.
In Nov. 2022, Soderstrom was elected judge and took the bench in January 2023. She had only served for six months prior to the murder trial.
The defendant was later found guilty of second-degree manslaughter by a jury and sentenced to time served.