Jurors are routinely told by judges and lawyers that they alone decide guilt and the parties will abide by their decision. That did not stop however Judge Amy Salerno who allegedly chastised a jury for finding a defendant not guilty in a recent case in Columbus. Salerno has now correctly been referred to the court for disciplinary action after four jurors complained about the tongue lashing.
It is one of the most important values in our judicial system is the neutrality of the judge in accepting the judgment of the jury. Yet we have seen more judges stepping from behind the bench to make public comments or lecture on the merits. This includes the improper comments in my view of the judge in the Casey Anthony case.
In this case, the jurors reported that the judge told them that 99 percent of the time jurors get the verdict right so that it was now down to 98 percent of the time. Even more worrisome is the alleged statement of the judge that the verdict did not matter because she was not done with the defendant. Jurors said that Salerno commented that the defendant had other charges pending and that she would see to it that he was punished.
The witnesses said that the judge was so incensed that she actually delayed a separate trial to vent at the jurors. The other judge reported dismissed the jurors of that trial out of fear that Salerno’s comments would prejudice them. The chief judge indicated that he would ask Salerno not to preside over future proceedings with the defendant. That much is obvious. It is really not her choice. She is clearly disqualified.
The question is whether, if these allegations are true, Salerno should remain as a judge. I would find it quite troubling to learn that she was allowed to continue on the bench after violating such fundamental principles of judicial conduct.
Salerno is actually up for reelection in November as a Republican. She is a former state representative. She earned her B.A. from Youngstown State University in 1979 and her J.D. from the Ohio State University in 1982.