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D

ocket

35

“Opening statements this morning at 9:30 a.m. in the trial called by the press ‘the boy in a box’ case”

and

“After we finished Day 2 of the case called the ‘Boy in the Box’ case, trustees from the jail came in

and assembled the actual 6’ x 8’ ‘box’ inside the courtroom!”

(The Commission objected to the comments

referring to the case as “the boy in a box case,” which was the term given by the media.)

“We have a jury deliberating on punishment for two counts of possession of child pornography. It is

probably one of the most difficult types of cases for jurors (and the judge and anyone else) to sit through

because of the evidence they have to see. Bless the jury for their service and especially bless the poor

child victims.”

“We finished up sentencing with a very challenging defendant.”

In her defense, District Court Judge offered four experts who testified that she did not violate the Canons

of the Code of Judicial Conduct or the Texas Constitution. Referring to the last two statements above,

District Court Judge stated that the comments were meant to show her appreciation to the jurors and to

describe her day with a particularly difficult defendant who spit and used profanity. She also stated that

the comments were aimed at keeping her campaign promise of transparency. The SCR agreed. While

it found it “troublesome that these comments go beyond mere factual statements of events” and add

“subjective interpretation,” the comments, at most, demonstrated a lack in judgment and were not an

intentional or gross misuse of office. It further held that the Commission failed to present evidence that

the statements suggested a probable decision or casted a doubt on District Court Judge’s impartiality. In

fact, the defense attorney in the underlying criminal matter testified that he did not observe any bias in

District Court Judge’s actions or rulings during the trial.

Charge II alleged that District Court Judge’s Facebook activities led to her recusal from a criminal

proceeding. The SCR found that there was no evidence of the factors that the administrative judge relied

upon for the recusal, and that the recusal alone did not meet the burden of proof that District Court Judge

violated Canon 4(A).

Finally, in Charge III, the Commission criticized District Court Judge for failing to promote and maintain

public confidence when she disregarded her own admonition to the jury about using social media to

comment on the pending criminal trial. After admonishing the jurors, District Court Judge later posted a

link to a news article about a pending trial to her Facebook page. The SCR held that there was no evidence

suggesting that information from the news article contained extraneous information that District Court

Judge did not already know, or that was used in any improper manner to prejudice the parties in the case.

It also found that District Court Judge had taken an extra step of caution by polling the jurors during the

trial to determine whether he or she had seen anyone’s social media post about the trial. All the jurors

responded that they had not.

District Court Judge was found not guilty on all charges and the public admonition was dismissed.