We previously discussed an Ohio judge who chastised a jury and threatened a defendant that his acquittal would not end the matter for her. Now Texas visiting Judge Jerry Ray has joined the ranks of judges who express their anger at juries for not ruling as they expect. Ray told a jury that it violated its oath and acted like the jury in the O.J. Simpson case.
The jurors in Tarrant County found David Tran, 17, not guilty of drunken driving despite a blood alcohol level of .095 — above the legal limit of .08. Faced with such a small level above the line, the jury had asked the judge if it could ignore the reading of the BAL device. They apparently did just that and Ray was enraged.
He first told Tran, “You got lucky. You absolutely are legally guilty of this offense.” He told the jurors:
I’ve been at this such a long time I know better than to get angry. But you just decided to ignore the law and your oath, and you know you did. The note that you sent out says, “Can we ignore the Intoxilyzer.” And you have the definitions of intoxication. And they were certainly—At least that one was very plain in this case and up on the board for you to see. And for whatever reasons, you chose to ignore that part of the evidence. And you have the right to do that. It’s called jury nullification. It’s when a jury decides to ignore the law or ignore the evidence. And they just want a certain outcome, and they maneuver until they get there. Perfect example, the O.J. Simpson trial. He clearly committed murder, and the jury didn’t want to convict him, so they found a way to—to render a not guilty verdict. So it happens. I’ve been around over 40 years in this profession, tried an awful lot of cases as a defense lawyer, as a prosecutor, and as a judge, and it happens. But this ranks among there as one of the most bizarre verdicts that I’ve seen. Thank you for your service, and you are excused.
It was an entirely inappropriate and unprofessional response from the judge. The judge was not just publicly flogging the jury for ruling for a defendant but he was making a public record that, despite his acquittal, Tran was guilty. In my view, such outbursts should be punished as a violation of judicial ethics. Here are a couple grounds under the Texas judicial Ethics code:
Upholding the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and should personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary is preserved.The provisions of this Code are to be construed and applied to further that objective.
Performing the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently
A. Judicial Duties in General. The judicial duties of a judge take precedence over all the judge’s other activities. Judicial duties include all the duties of the judge’s office prescribed by law.In the performance of these duties, the following standards apply:
B. Adjudicative Responsibilities.
. . .
(4) A judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and should require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.
(5) A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice.
(6) A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, including but not limited to bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, and shall not knowingly permit staff, court officials and others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so. . . .
There was a judge in the same county a few years ago who was heavily criticized circumventing procedures to handle thousands of probation revocations. The judge would negotiate his own plea deals and if a defendant rejected the offer he would hear the case and, if the allegations were proven, order a more severe sentence. A “William Ray” (not Jerry Ray) was involved in that controversy in receiving over a million dollars from the judge, who he also worked for in the judge’s campaigns. It appears to be a different individual but the county seems to have a rather curious culture for judicial officers.
51 thoughts on “Texas Judge Publicly Denounces Jurors For Acquitting Defendant And Acting Like The O.J. Simpson Jury”
Taking an oath to follow the law as the judge explains it to you DOES NOT remove your responsibility as a human being to do the right thing.
“I was just following orders.” was not excuse for the Nazis at Nuremberg, and it cannot it be an excuse for doing the inexcusable because a judge told you so.
The police investigator in the OJ case was asked on the witness stand “Did you manufacture evidence?” and replied by invoking the 5th.
Not guilty was the inevitable verdict, nothing else would matter to any intelligent juror.
Can no one remember this?
Judge: “Perfect example, the O.J. Simpson trial. He clearly committed murder, and the jury didn’t want to convict him, so they found a way to—to render a not guilty verdict. So it happens. I’ve been around over 40 years in this profession, tried an awful lot of cases as a defense lawyer, as a prosecutor, and as a judge, and it happens.”
So, Your Honor — and I use that honorific in the loosest possible sense — are you saying that the power and authority of your office somehow enables you to perceive the guilt or innocence of a defendant even when you weren’t even present for the proceedings? Are you *seriously* claiming that you can fairly judge a man simply by watching him on the teevee?
Because my advanced powers of perception tell me that you’ve got an absolutely RAGING case of Alzheimer’s Disease crawling up your back if you expect us to believe that.
What were the facts? What was withheld? Was he driving? or was he drunk sleeping in a parked car? The jury will hold it against the prosecution whenever facts are withheld while they are withheld from their normal lives,families and routines. If someone is to have the burden of judging someones fate,you must give all the facts, and no trump up charges on a regular person ,a peer of the jury.
No, but that’s only because I didn’t drive a truck when I lived in Texas. I’ve seen them do it though.
The judge violated a number of judicial canons. And his statement to the defendant was legally incorrect. He was not “legally guilty” because the jury said he wasn’t. Too many years at the same job can produce cynicism, not to mention arrogance.
Florida judicial rules prohibit a judge from doing anything more than thanking the jury for its service (except in an order or opinion). Commenting on the verdict in this way is expressly prohibited. Sounds like Texas should consider adopting the same rule.
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